Residents of Kalunga Landing Site in the Kyarulangira sub-county, Rakai District are living in fear after part of Lake Kijanebarola dried up leaving scores of different fish species dead. The small satellite lake in the Lake Victoria basin had at least 14 fish species.
The Lake was formed as a result of the drowning of part of the Rwizi-Kibare river course, when the landscape was tilted eastward reversing the flow of rivers and streams through new routes. The outcome was a shallow lake with an average depth of 5 meters, covering a surface area of 35 kilometres and a circumference of about 88 km.
Kijanebarola fed the Kibare-Bukora Rivers, which drain the Kooki hills through the Sango Bay plains, before streaming through Lake Victoria. But according to the residents, the water levels first reduced on Wednesday and Thursday and progressively shrunk on Friday and Saturday night before completely disappearing on Sunday morning.
Charles Rwendiire, one of the elders in the affected village says that the lake first drained in a space measuring about two football fields before it dried up, and as a result, the fish remained on the muddy surface, from where the fishermen and residents have been picking it since Sunday.
Rwendiire noted that it may take some time for the community to catch fish again since the lake may take quite some time to return. He adds that this is the second time the lake has disappeared after a similar incident in 1997 when it took a year for the water to resurface and reoccupy its original space.
He noted that people from surrounding villages and across the district are flocking the area to catch fish and have a complete outlook of the scene.
Paul Mwanje, another resident says that they first suspected that there was a sinkhole that sucked all the water in the lake but there was nothing to confirm their hypothesis. He noted that what surprises them is that the water disappeared at the time of the prevailing torrential rainfall that triggered tidal floods across the district, yet there are also several rivers, streams and channels that drain water into the same Lake.
Isaac Mwesigwa, one of the fishermen said that the lake has been the main source of their livelihoods. Esther Nagita, who smokes fish at the landing site attributes the strange incident to the resurgence of prohibited practices that may have annoyed the spirit which protects the lake.
Dickson Ssebyala, the Kooki Minister for Culture and Environment said he had dispatched a team to establish the magnitude of the problem. He explains that the lake is vital in the history of the Kooki Cultural Institution and they have now teamed up with geologists to assess the situation and advise the residents on the next steps.