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Lake Ngami ban enrages fishermen

BONIFACE KEAKABETSE
MAUN: More than 1,000 fishermen dependent on fishing at Lake Ngami have been left in the lurch following the recent placement of a one-year ban on such activities by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Fishermen here reacted angrily this week, after officials informed them that they would not be allowed to fish in the lake due to environmental concerns.

Scores of irate fishermen stormed the District Wildlife offices and approached Maun West Member of Parliament, Tawana Moremi demanding a reversal on the decision.

Ngamiland Wildlife coordinator, Molothanyi Bolt Othomile told Mmegi on Tuesday that government had decided to institute a one-year freeze of fishing at Lake Ngami and Xau in the Central District. 

“The decision was taken to control the spate of pollution committed by fishermen at the two lakes,” Othomile explained.

Lake Ngami Conservation Trust chairman, Frisco Gabokakangwe said the pollution problems at the popular water body had become ‘unbearable’ during the previous fishing seasons. He said mushrooming fishermen camps near the lake had affected its environment, as the area did not have toilets.

“Pollution was causing conflict within the community as cattle farmers feared that the prevalent open defecation by fishermen would lead to their cattle getting infected with measles disease,” he said.

“Our trust intends to build toilets at the fishing camps during the period of the freeze.” In turn, Lake Ngami Fishermen Association chairman, Loago Mokanki said the water body supported more than 1,600 fishermen who exported their harvest to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of

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Congo. 

“The decision to freeze fishing is unfortunate as the fishermen had devised ways to ensure pollution does not prevail like during the previous fishing season,” he said. “Last week, all the fishermen made a commitment to avail toilets at their own expenses.” Lake Ngami Fishing Cluster chairman, Bareetsi Bogaisang, whose cluster is in the process of transforming into a Fishing Cooperative, said although the pollution problem has to be solved, the government did not consult them adequately before instituting the freeze.

“Two months ago, we were in the off-season. Government could have helped to put up facilities during that time to allow fishing to resume.

“Many poor people’s lives are dependent on this trade.” About 222 fishing licences are issued for the lake, but many fishermen conduct their activities regardless. The lake is home to around 135 fishing camps.

Maun West constituency secretary, Chippa Mohiemang said Moremi had scheduled a meeting with the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama over the issue.  Last year government came under fire for failing to put up structures like toilets to help the thriving fishing sector on the lake.



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