Lake Victoria boat disaster

The research conducted between March and May this year, also revealed that an early warning system which is currently lacking can help minimize disasters caused by climate.

A total of 210 people living around the fish landing sites in the islands of Bubeke, Bugala, Bukasa, and Misozi said drowning was the major cause of death on Lake Victoria.

?97 percent of those interviewed could recall more than two different cases of drowning involving more than three people each in the last one year,? said Richard Tushemereirwe, the principal investigator and a disaster and climate resilience research fellow at Makerere University school of Public Health.

Tushemereirwe, also a senior presidential advisor on science and technology was presenting the findings of a study titled ?Ideas on building resilience in the fishing communities of Lake Victoria? at Hotel Africana in Kampala.

The theme for the event was: Integrated extreme weather event monitoring, forecasting and warning system.

Dr. John Balirwa, a researcher at the Fisheries Research Institute in Jinja said fishermen who are directly involved in Lake Victoria are spread through Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with Kenya having a total of 37,348 fishermen, Tanzania 77,997 and Uganda 56,957, totaling up to 170,000 to 180,000 fishermen.

?These figures are based on estimates conducted between 2005 and 2010. However for every real active fisherman, there are two to three other fishermen,? Balirwa said.

According to his research findings, Tushemereirwe together with a team of meteorologists and sociologists said there was need for an early warning system which they said would be the solution to a reduced vulnerability of people in fishing communities.

?Fishing communities still relate lightning and severe weather accidents to spiritual causes as compared to scientifically explainable events,? He said, adding that because some believe witchcraft still brings lightening, public education is needed.

The most hazardous weather elements cited include: Strong winds resulting into high waves, lightning very frequently during rain periods, heavy thundershowers and poor visibility.

Leah Tai a water resources engineer said Human Networks International; a mobile based data collection service for development professionals is teaming up with a telephone company to launch the 321 service. Here a caller will dial and get updates on weather related hazards or a daily forecast on the weather.

She however said putting such a system in place and finding sustainable partners to help finance and host all countries around Lake Victoria would require $1m (sh1bn)

The research revealed that 82percent of individuals around the fishing community use mobile phones as the main tool of communication while only 15percent have smartphones that can receive Early Warning Alerts through internet connectivity.

By Cecilia Okoth, The New Vision


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