The "brown Lake" as some people refer to Lake Burunge is facing imminent extinction! The reason it is referred to as the brown lake is because its main habitants are the catfish known to stir mud and hence the brown colour. This lake is located in Babati district and it’s among two other lakes in the district which are Lake Manyara and Babati. Young Environmentalists Trainees (YETs) during their visit noted that the continued destruction of the lake was due to inadequate community participation in the fishery sector leading to non adherence of laws.
Fishery Act requires that 260 meters from water bodies should be preserved but around lake Burunge there are farms which are as near as about 10 meters from the Lake. “The reason why there are farms up to less than 60 meters from the lake is because the land was given to the people by the village. We are in the process of reallocating land to the people so that they are 200 meters from the lake as required by the law. The hardest part in are allocating the people is that, where will they go to and how will they survive?” said the fishery officer of Babati district, Ahmed Abdallah Mbaruok. Though there tried to justify their actions, the fact still remains that the law should be adhered in order to save Lake Burunge.
“The by-law provides that the lake should be closed from 31st December to 1st July to increase productivity. During the period which the lake is closed no one is allowed to fish and that every fishing gear and fishermen should be 5 kilometers from the lake. During this time when a person is found with fish he is asked to show a receipt or is taken to court.” This was said by Mbaruok. The fishermen’s group secretary, Maliseri Alfred when introducing to YETs the members of the group informed the team that Elinaida Makoi is a fish vendor who is in search of fish. When the YET’s questioned, they were informed that there are some pounds which contain fish though during our tour in the area we did not see any of the said pounds. The incident made the YET’s doubt if the Lake is real closed.
In additional, illegal fishing though is restricted it’s still practiced. According to Mbaruok and Patrick Wambura, the chairperson of the fishermen’s group, it’s difficult to completely curb illegal fishing.
The effects of not following the laws and thus farm the near the lake was explained to YETs. “There are farmers who tap water from the lake and that the water from the farms comes back to the lake with chemicals from pesticides and herbicides used in farming. The water with chemicals destroys plankton which is feed for the fish. The destruction of the plankton has led to disappearance of some species of tilapia fish,” said Mbaruok. The pollution of the lake’s water is not only reducing the income of the fishermen but also makes the lake’s water risk for human consumption.
Inadequate community participation was noticed from the information we got from Mbaruok that they have BMU (Beach Management Unit), however Wambura informed the YETs that they are in the process of forming BMU but a local community member who introduced himself only as Babylon told the YET’s that he did not know anything about BMU.
To conserve Lake Burunge, community participation is important but also adherence to the laws. The Environmental Management Act provides that it’s the duty of every citizen to conserve and protect our environment and inform the relevant authorities of any environmental degradation. We all have the duty to conserve and protect our environment. This duty includes but not limited to protection of Lake Burunge. Together we can!
Kokushubila Kabanza-YET 2011