Boma-Ng'ombe — AUTHORITIES in Hai district, Kilimanjaro region have banned sugarcane farming along the source of Ngareworikoi River in Mboreni village.
Hai District Commissioner, Mr Novatus Makunga said that the Ngarewokori River offers a lifeline to thousands of people living downstream and should the water source be threatened it will be a catastrophe to villagers.
He issued a three-week deadline for the farm owners to uproot their reeds and render the water source free of any human activity.
People are still allowed to use water from the river for irrigation as long as their farms maintained the required distance from the water source and river bank and those drawing water from the spring for watering their plots have been requested to follow the procedures agreed upon by all the villages downstream in order to regulate the use of water as fears of a drought loom.
Mr Makunga said measures have been taken in order to save hundreds of families in the semi-arid lowlands now facing an acute shortage of water since the end of the last rain season.
He added that before the decision to ban human activities at the source of the river was reached, district authorities consulted with experts from the Pangani River Basin Authority (PRBA), village leaders and local water committees.
The DC also ordered the owners of a sugarcane plantation at the source of the river to stop farming there and gave them a month's notice to uproot the plantation, failure of which legal action would be taken.
Mr Makunga added that a severe drought was looming in the lowland areas in Hai district hardly three months since the end of the rainy season during which some villages had insufficient rains.
"I don't want to see any farm close to the source of Ngareworikoi river within a month from now", he ordered, pledging to assist hundreds of families who are likely to go without water as the crisis worsens.
The DC had convened a meeting of stakeholders, including ward executive officers, to discuss the water crisis facing some villages in the district due to drought and tapping of water from some rivers and streams for irrigation farming by some people upstream.
He said while cultivation at the source of the contested river at Mboreni village should stop forthwith, residents of Lemira and Nure villages should make sure they do not divert water to their farms or homesteads at the expense of downstream users.
The meeting also directed that trees should be planted on the banks of streams at Mbweera village and livestock keepers should stop taking large herds there because they trample the water source.
Due to a possible scarcity of water before the advent of rains at the end of the year or early next year, there would also be water rationing among villages located upstream and those downstream that are often the most affected.
The last rain season has seen insufficient rains in much of Hai district and other districts in Kilimanjaro and neighbouring Manyara and Arusha regions. Already there are fears of looming food shortage in many areas as well as a water crisis.