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IAfrica News Special Focus 

September 14 - 20, 2012

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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'Dynamite fishing' threatens
Rufiji Delta prawn sanctuary

ongoing illegal logging and agricultural
activities are ALSO threatening the eco-system
of the RUFIJI DELTA national mangrove forest

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DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- Toxins in the form of pesticides and urea based fertilizer and dynamite fishing are threatening East Africaís biggest delta Rufijiís famous prawn supply, as well as other marine resources in the sanctuary.

This is despite the area being a reserved national wetland and a newly added site for protection in accordance to the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement that provides for the conservation and good use of wetlands.

As the residents in the delta preparing for evacuation and relocation ahead of the expected floods and subsequent submergence of the land, their health is reported to be endangered from the illegal use of toxic chemicals in the area.

Visiting Nyamisati village for a meeting with villagers last weekend, Coast Regional Commissioner Mwantum Mahiza said the ongoing illegal logging and agricultural activities are threatening the ecosystem of the national mangrove forest.

"My focus here is to caution them against invasion of the national mangrove forest for paddy production, charcoal making and overexploitation of mangrove forests for timber," she explained.

It is reported that there is a steep decline of fish in the delta and surrounding islands, and researchers have cautioned that if serious measures are not urgently taken to reverse the situation, dynamite fishing and the deployment of other toxins will continue to affect prawn fishing in the delta and other marine resources.

Prawns are an important foreign exchange earner and they flourish in the mangrove ecosystem , hence the dire need for the villagers, who are the artisanal fishermen, to be educated on environmental conservation, the effects of illegal fishing and use of toxins in the delta, and the general practices to conserve the forest and prawn sanctuary.

The supposedly reserved and protected area is also plagued with the over-exploitation of mangrove for timber and charcoal to meet demands in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam regardless of the environmentally degrading and even potentially irreversible impact.

Mahiza called on all village leaders in Nyamisati, Salale and elsewhere to cooperate and work with the Mangrove Management Department, the Rufiji District Council and forest officers in charge of conservation and protection.

"..donít involve political issues in this project..," she cautioned the local government leaders and called on agricultural experts to train farmers on modern farming technology and methods particularly in paddy production.

Currently, the efforts focus on the contact and engagement with villagers to sensitize them on the issue, identify their needs and impart them modern farming methods as well as hybrid seeds that will cope with the deltaís saline conditions and the ongoing climate change that will see the area submerged in the not so distant future.

However, according to reports, the efforts are not effective and experts said a new approach or rejuvenated effort must be employed to save the delta and the prawn industry.

Located over 100 kilometers south of Dar es Salaam, the Rufiji River Delta is by far the largest in Eastern Africa and contains the largest estuarine mangrove forest on the eastern seaboard of the African continent.

A large part of the area is covered with an estimated 55,000 hectares of salt tolerant mangrove forests which offers shelter to migratory wetland birds and is home to a large variety of aquatic life.

Hippopotamuses, otters, the Sykesí monkeys, even the Nile crocodiles are found in the delta.

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