KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - “Everything has changed these days, even the Nile is no longer as generous as it has always been, our catch is diminishing and its banks are drying,” Hamza Ahmed Abdul Gadir, a fisherman (63) said in a sad, low voice. He would not rule out that the White Nile would dry up, considering the great change he is witnessing.
Abdul Gadir said that he is the fourth generation of his family that has practiced fishing and that he recognizes each and every spot of the White Nile starting from the part north of the Dam down to the confluence. “This stretch of the Nile is 52 kilometers long and I know its details just as I know the palm of my hand,” he said in a confident tone.
Abdul Gadir said he had noticed a change in the White Nile since 1994 and the following years, especially in Tiraiat Al-Bejah. “Vast expanses of the White Nile drained during summer-time and consequently the quantity and volume of the fish catch decreased,” he said. He said in the past they used nets of wide openings to catch big species of fish weighing up to 250 kilograms, but as the dry areas began to widen, the quantity of fish began to decrease and the species have become smaller and, consequently they began to use smaller fishing nets to catch very small fish. Comparing their income in the past and at present, Abdul Gadir said previously they earned a minimum 150 Sudanese pounds a day but now a fisherman will be lucky if he gets 50 pounds. He said he knows by name 75 persons out of 450 fishing families who migrated either to Merowe Dam Lake or to Wadi Halfa to work with fishing companies, although each of them used to run his own fishing boat.
Al-Amin Abdullah (46), a fish merchant in Mawradah Market, Omdurman, said: “In the past the fish price used to decrease during summer-time and rise during winter but now the price has become almost constant.” He noted that the semi-daily fish supply is about 5,000 kilograms, arriving mainly from outside the State (Merowe and Wadi Halfa) and the consumers are basically the owners of the restaurants. The fish coming from Jebel Awlia Dam is of small quantities that have no impact on the market and its price is high due to the high cost of fishing, but it is still alive when presented on the market-place and is therefore preferred to the frozen fish coming from outside the State. Nevertheless, it still has little impact on the market, Abdullah insisted.
The former consultant of the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity who declined to give his name said: “The volume of the water in front of Jebel Awlia Dam down to Merowe Dam has not changed as the policy of running the Dam has not changed and the water quantity has remained unchanged.” The former consultant went on to say that the banks of the White Nile north of Jebel Awlia Dam dried in 1989 after the Blue Nile water during the 1988 flash flood thrust into the White Nile course where silt precipitated in quantities that could not be driven back by the White Nile due to its weak current. The consultant predicted that the emergence of new islands and expansion of the existing ones would continue and could even expand into the River Nile to reach Aslanj Island, north of Omdurman. He said the situation would remain as it is now until another flash flood removes the precipitated silt from the course of the White Nile, describing as a waste of time, money and effort any human intervention for diverting the course of the river and such an attempt “will be like plowing in the sea.”
Expert Abdul Majeed Badr AL-Dinn, the former Director of Federal Fisheries and Aquatic Life, explained that there were several reasons for the decrease of fish in that area, warning that this situation would continue and would switch from a phenomenon into a constant reality unless it is addressed seriously. He categorically dismissed a suggestion that the decrease in the water of the White Nile was a direct or indirect reason for the phenomenon. “The shortage of fish in this region is due to three reasons: First, the river pollution as a result of dumping waste and remains of the tannery, the sewerage water and washing water of the trucks (fuels and lubricants). Secondly, the unlawful fishing (poaching) by using illegal nets and thirdly, intensive fishing throughout the year which prevents reproduction and multiplication of fish for replenishment,” said Badr AL-Dinn.
In order to resolve this problem, the aquatic-life expert proposed a number intensive of steps to be made- first: augmentation of the fish stock by dumping live fish in the Nile, secondly: intensive breeding of fish, thirdly: denying access by the fishermen to the river during the proliferation period, besides monitoring unlawful fishing activities and, lastly, granting renewed licenses for fishing in the region.
When we returned to Hamza Ahmed Abdul Gadir and communicated to him the view-points of the experts, he threw his net in the river in a gesture of farewell, saying: “Bye bye river of the thirst and until a new flood occurs to return it to its previous situation, as the expert of the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity said, or the concerned authorities in the Ministry of Agriculture intervenes as proposed by the aquatic-life expert, migration to Merowe Dam Lake or to Wadi Halfa remains the practical option despite the bitterness it causes to the head of a family who has no adequate time left of his age to learn another profession to earn a living for his children.”
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