Politicians are standing in the way of natural resource officers as the latter try to enforce the implementation of environmental policies and regulations.
A meeting to halt fishing activities on Lake George to enable it to replenish itself almost hit a snug when politicians proposed that the fisheries ministry should only stop fishermen after elections.
The state minister for fisheries, Fred Mukisa, had called the meeting with Bushenyi district leaders, who described the timing as â€˜not goodâ€™ because it does not favour politicians.
Earlier, Mukisa had asked the district leaders to halt all fishing activities on the lake but later withdrew the directive after politicians from Kasese district allegedly protested the ban.
Anthony Rubeihayo, the Bushenyi district fisheries officer, says the minister visited Kasese to solicit political support before the lake could be closed to fishing.
Lake George, which has about eight landing sites, stretches to the three districts of Kasese, Bushenyi and Kamwenge. However, the fishermen and the district leaders are accusing each other of mismanaging the lake.
Longino Ndyanabo, the district chairman, objected to Mukisaâ€™s proposal: â€œIf we close the lake, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) members will use the move to de-campaign the National Resistance Movement (NRM).â€
Where do the locals go?
Longino says when fishing was stopped recently, the people starved. He suggests that before the Government suspends fishing, it should provide food and relocate the affected people who may have nowhere to go.
â€œWe donâ€™t have enough workers to monitor the lake after its closure. Who is going to pay for food to feed these people if they are not fishing?â€ he asks.
Ssezi Turyamureeba, the Katunguru sub-county district councillor, says when fishing was temporarily suspended, the local leaders did not know where to relocate the fishermen.
To which Mukisa responds:
â€œThe rate at which the lake is being depleted is alarming. Donâ€™t be scared. We shall beat FDC. By the time we open the lake for fishing, there will be enough fish in the lake.â€
Lake George, which was once endowed with a variety of fish has seen its resources dramatically dwindle.
According to Ndyanabo, the high population at the fishing landing sites has exerted pressure on the lake.
â€œPermanent structures like schools and health centres have been built, making it hard for people to want to move,â€ he says.
He says although they have encouraged people to turn to other sources of income under the NAADS programme, nothing has come of it. He suggests a policy of limiting the population on the lakes.
He proposes that the Government should announce a six-month quarantine on the lakes to rejuvenate them. One fish monger identified as Lubowa, a fisherman in Kasese, agrees that the lake needs to be given a break to replenish itself.
He blames Kasese and Kamwenge leaders for failing their people. The scrapping of regional fisheries officers who used to monitor the lake has made matters worse.
Although the Government introduced Beach Management Units, these have failed bring change.
â€œWe are going to identify people with businesses on the lake and relocate those who are not supposed to stay there,â€ Mukisa says.
Fishermen at Kashaka landing site say they used to catch between 100-200kg of fish per visit. But now, getting as much as 5kg is a problem.
Fishing on Lake George was supposed to be put on halt effective April 12 but nothing has been done.
â€œWe are waiting for a communication from the office of the minister so that we can effect the ban,â€ says Rubeihayo.
Politics is killing lake george