Zambezi Off Limits for Fishing

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Residents of the Caprivi Region whose main water source is the Zambezi River are likely to suffer from bloody diarrhoea and painful abdominal cramps given the high levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria detected in the river. The bacteria are commonly found in untreated water and could easily be passed from person to person. Although it helps in the absorption of Vitamin K in the body, the bacteria can cause diarrhoea, typhoid, amoebiasis, schistosoma or bilharziasis. The presence of such bacteria in water could be due to leakage of sewerage systems and their disposal into water especially for communities living along or near the river, its channels and lakes. Lack of deep latrines have resulted in the water being contaminated because river-side communities are known to relieve themselves in the bush and this results in the run-offs – particularly over the rainy season – contaminating the river. Based on a document obtained by New Era, the recommended approach for the next one month by the ministry will be to sensitize people to boil water used for drinking purposes for at least five minutes or more. Residents are further being advised not to eat fish with deformities or wounds as they risk falling ill. Community members are also requested to report to the office of the regional governor or the nearest clinic should they experience any discomfort such as diarrhoea, headaches, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and possibly blood in faeces. In the past two weeks, communities living along the Zambezi River and its tributaries have observed fish with deformities and worm infestations. The deformities of fish could be caused by parasites that are living in the water and there is speculation this condition could be linked to flocks of migratory birds. The governor at a recent meeting was urged by Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Dr Abraham Iyambo to ensure that stringent inspections for possible sewerage leakages into water masses are done. Due to reports that were received by the fisheries minister expressing concern about the condition of fish, fish samples from Mpukano Channel, the Zambezi River, Chobe River, Kasaya Channel and Lake Chisambilo were collected and sent to South Africa for laboratory tests. The results from fish samples that were tested for bacteria such as Acromonas, Pseudomonas, E. coli, Saureus, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens and overall coliform confirmed that the fish had excessive coliforms which exceeds the acceptable grams for human consumption. Salmonella was also detected. Water samples that were taken at Kasaya Channel, Chobe River, Chisambilo Lake and the area between Mpukano and Nanakuntwe show high levels of coliforms while the acceptable level of coliforms/100ml should not exceed 10. E. coli, which should not be present in drinking water for humans, was detected ranging from 5 to 36 with Mpukano Channel and Nanakuntwe being the most infected. The “contaminations” in these waters could possibly lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, amoebiasis and schistosoma usually caused by urinating in water. The meeting that was held in Katima Mulilo this week resolved that Namibia contacts its neighbouring countries that share the river, namely, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi on what could be done about the situation. Already, the ministry this week approved the closure of fishing activities in the Zambezi River. The closed fishing season commences today December 21, 2006 and runs until January 31, 2007 pending the outcome of further laboratory tests. The ministry will make available a boat that will combat illegal fishing activities during the closed season. Efforts to seek minister Iyambo’s comment on the matter proved fruitless as he is at the coast on official duty. However, Deputy Minister Kilus Nguvauva confirmed that the minister visited the region early this week to assess the situation. It was resolved fishing in the Zambezi be brought to an end for the stated period. This decision was also taken considering that on the Zambian side of the river there is no fishing currently taking place. This has led to many fishmongers crossing to the Namibian side for continued fishing activities.