Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Illegal fishing and sanding mining activities are still prevalent on Lake Victoria despite the ban by the concerned authorities. Our reporters saw several people involved illegal fishing and sanding mining in the presence of authorities last week during an expedition to retrace the last voyage MV Templar.
The illegal practices have been pointed out by environmentalists as a huge threat to the existence of Lake Victoria as they destroy the ecosystem and biodiversity. Michael Bassajasubi, a businessman at Ggaba landing site told URN that canoes ferry lake sand to Ggaba each day from where it is loaded onto trucks destined for Kampala for construction.
According to Bassajasubi, those involved in selling Lake Sand reap big because of high demand. He says a lorry of lake sand at Ggaba goes for Shillings 330,000. Bassajasubi notes that to keep the business going, the miners reserve some tip from each trip of sand for ‘big people’.
Our reporters spent about an hour at Ggaba and saw three tippers loading sand adjacent to the Pier. URN also saw more than five canoes on the lake loaded with sand during the expedition. Jackson Mutyaba, a coxswain says sand mining is a normal activity on the Lake.
He says some sand is dredged near the shoreline and in the lake by help of machines. A number of Chinese companies including Only You and Mango Tree have in the past been singled out for dredging sand out of the Lake.
Some local leaders led by Wakiso LC V chairperson, Matia Lwanga Bwanika have openly opposed the vice but are yet to see positive results.
In a recent interview, Tony Achidria, the Senior Public Relations Officer at National Environment Management Authority-NEMA told URN that the Authority had banned all forms of sand mining awaiting approval of new sand mining guidelines.
Achidria said despite the fact that they are thin on ground and can’t be everywhere; they act promptly whenever they receive information about the illegal practices.
In the same vein, illegal fishing is still prevalent on Lake Victoria despite the presence of the Fisheries Protection Unit under Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF.
During the expedition, our reporters encountered more than ten groups of fishermen using the banned monofilament net practicing what is locally known as ‘Tycoon’. The fishermen use a stick with a flat surface to hit water and force the fish into the monofilament nets.
Statistics from Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, show that the fisheries sector used to play an important social and economic role in the country and one of the key foreign exchange earners contributing up to 2.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP and over 12 percent to agricultural GDP.
However, all this was lost due to illegal fishing. Major James Nuwagaba, the Commandant of the Fisheries Protection Unit- FPU, says they have played a very role in restoring sanity on the water despite the fact that a few fishermen are still involved in the bad fishing practices.
He says they have been able to impound and destroy number of illegal fishing gears and immature fish and apprehend and prosecute errant fishermen since their operations started.