By John B. Thawite
Residents of Katwe/Kabatoro Town Council in Kasese district are worried of fresh crocodile attacks from Lake Edward if urgent preventive measures are not put in place.
They say the water in some of the cages, which were constructed last year to protect them from the crocodiles, is drying up. Now they, especially the women and children, are forced to once again resort to fetching water from the crocodile-infested lake.
John Tinkasimire Makasi, the Lake Edward Beach Management Unit (BMU) chairperson, said he was particularly worried about the fate of the school-going children as the new academic year opens on Monday.
With waters within the protected areas reducing, residents are now at the mercy of the lake water, putting themselves at a risk of attacks from crocodiles and hippos.
When New Vision visited the area on Thursday, the water had gone below the levels of the cages. A handful of young people, including 17-year-old Amina Masika, were found fetching water from the lake.
The cages were constructed in 2012 and 2013 following a directive by President Yoweri Museveni after residents appealed to him to save them from the crocodiles which were killing and injuring their kin.
According to Katwe/Kabatoro Town Clerk, Asuman Musa Bwambale, two of the cages were constructed at sh55m with funding support from Kasese District Local Government, Katwe/Kabatoro Town Council and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
The USAID-STAR project and the National Association of Professional Environmentalists NAPE) funded the other three.
Bwambale told New Vision the cages were constructed by an engineer of Zzimwe Construction Company.
17-year-old Amina Masika fetches water from the dangerous lake. PHOTO/John B. Thawite
Augustine Kooli, the District Senior Environment Officer, said the engineer ignored his advice to cater for the dry seasons.
“I advised the engineer that since the water in the lake recedes during the dry seasons, he should extend the cages a little deeper into the lake to cater for fluctuations during the dry season,” he said, adding: “But I lost out.”
According to Kooli, the lake water has receded and the levels lowered following the current dry season.
Several efforts to get a comment from Laban, the engineer, were fruitless.
“We have resolved that the next money we are getting from UWA under the Conservation of Protected Institutions (CPI) arrangement will be used to improve the current cages,” said the town clerk on phone.
The UWA Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area (QECA) Manager, Nelson Guma, said the authority was going to rectify the problem using revenue-sharing funds from tourists.
UWA usually gives 20% of the collections to communities neighbouring the protected areas as part of its social corporate responsibility.
“We are committed to protecting the people’s lives,” said Guma, explaining that the gradient had affected the water levels in some of the cages.
A number of residents have been attaccked and others killed or injurred in various crocodile attacks since
September 2009 when Matovu Razak, a 12-year old pupil of Katwe Primary School, was attacked and killed while fetching water.
In Dec. 2010, James Byaruhanga, a fisherman from Kakoni parish, was attacked while checking his fishing nets but survived with minor injuries.
Mbambu Jonice, 13, was attacked and killed in January 2011 while washing clothes by the lake. In December the same year, Mazinga, a resident of Kakoni, survived a crocodile attack while washing utensils.
Joshua Tugume, a Katwe Boarding Primary School Primary Three pupil was also attacked and killed in December 2011, followed by Joshua Tugume in February the following year.