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River Yala breaks its bank, destroys fisher-folk livelihood

Over 300 fishermen who once relied on the Yala swamp ecosystem for livelihood have been rendered destitute by nature that is reclaiming the wetland.
From the burst dyke that has drained a man-made Lake Bob that was a fishermen’s haven and a clogged canal that refreshed Lake Kanyaboli, the fishing community in the area are a worried lot, not sure of what the future portends.
Those that can manage are now forced to literary hunt for fish and scare them into their nets, something that does not amuse conservationists.
Among those affected by the unfolding scenario is Peter Odera Opondo from Seje who used to carry out fishing activities at Lake Bob. Odera laments that heavy rains that saw river Yala burst its banks in April this year marked the beginning of their problems.
“The huge volume of water broke a section of a dyke that was constructed by Dominion farms limited a few years back,” he said.
Odera said that the breaking of the dyke saw all the water drain into the swamp, together with the fish.
The effect, he said, is that they have to pursue the fish into the swamp which is impossible as security guards do not allow them.
He says that as a result of the calamity, a fish landing point at Ojur beach which was constructed by the county government of Siaya lies disused.

Fishermen going about their duties in Lake Kanyaboli

“This artificial lake used to support 300 fishermen and we can no longer make ends meet. All that we have now are papyrus reeds and a host of hippopotamus that harasses us,” he lamented and called on both the national government, county government of Siaya and any other well-wisher to help restore the dyke.
At Lake Kanyaboli, the chairman of Kombo beach management unit, Philemon Otieno Mumbo says the breaking of the dyke and subsequent blockage of a canal that once refreshed the second largest Ox Bow lake in Africa portends a bleak future for the fish, birds and other wildlife that depend on it.
“Right now, there is no proper inlet into the lake,” he says adding that something must be done urgently to remedy the situation.
Mumbo also laments that enough was not being done by relevant authorities to curb illegal fishing and wants the Beach management units to be supported with patrol boats and other tools to enforce the fishing laws.
“We have some unscrupulous people who use illegal nets to catch juvenile fish but because of lack of resources, we are unable to bring this to an end,” he said.

By Philip Onyango

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