Hanang — ILLEGAL farming activities extending right to the shores of Lake Balangida in Hanang District, Manyara Region, are threatening the existence of this important water body.
The lake's waterline has also been receding at an alarming rate, raising concerns as to how long the water body will hold out before drying up altogether.
Government authorities in both Hanang District and Manyara Region have been blamed for taking no action to stop massive rates of siltation, pollution and overfishing on Lake Balangida, which is located in Bassotu ward.
Residents of the area say no measures have been taken against farmers who cultivate in prohibited areas, while of late some have even been using chemical fertilizers as well as herbicides and pesticides on lakeside farms, which gradually kill fish species in the lake.
The existing by-laws do prohibit human activities, including agriculture, within 200 metres of the shoreline, but many people are wondering whether the laws are being enforced.
Irrigation farming is also blamed for endangering the ecology of the lake, which is depended on by thousands of families and their large numbers of livestock in the semiarid area.
The councillor for Bassotu ward, Mr Samwel Ghawoga, said he was surprised why no punitive measures had been taken against people turning the banks of the lake into farmland. He said farming in such areas had been prohibited, adding:
"The law is very clear on that. But it is the responsibility of the law-enforcement agencies to act on that," he said. When reached to comment on the matter, District Executive Director, Mr Felix Mabula, also confirmed that no farming was allowed on the shores of the fresh water lake.
"The government has made its position clear on this," he said, but added that the local leaders in Bassotu ward should act first before the intervention of the district authorities.
Other residents of the area said water from the lake was no longer safe for drinking and other domestic use because of the use of pesticides by farmers. It could not be established how many acres were presently under irrigation, which normally picks up during the dry season.
Bassotu village executive officer, Mr Israel Bura, said water scarcity was already critical in the area and that many people were now forced to walk 12 to 15 kilometres everyday to fetch the precious liquid.
The 20-square-kilometre lake has been the centre of conflict in recent years, pitting livestock keepers supported by activists one hand and farmers and local authorities, on the other.
A fishing ban which was imposed in January, this year, was lifted last July 1. The ban was imposed to allow replenishment of fish stocks.