April 2, 2006

Drought-hit Tanzania orders herders off catchments

By George Obulutsa

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has ordered farmers and
herders who have encroached on water catchment areas and game
reserves to leave in a drive to protect the drought- weakened
environment, Vice-President Ali Muhammed Shein said.

The east African country is emerging from its worst drought
in years, which has led to food shortages, and to power cuts
due to a drop in hydroelectric power output.

"This environmental destruction is the cause of drought and
the drying up of water catchment areas in the country," Shein
said in a speech broadcast on a state-run radio station late on
Saturday. "On average, 91,300 hectares of forest is lost every

Shein said the government had given arable farmers and
herders until June to leave, adding that the order would be
enforced by regional commissioners.

The government has also banned the movement of livestock
into Tanzania from neighboring countries for pasture and
dwindling supplies of water.

A World Bank official on Wednesday urged the government to
take water management more seriously as supplies come under
pressure from increased urban demand and occupation of river
catchment areas.

Francis Ato Brown, a senior sanitation engineer for the
World Bank in Tanzania, said scarcity could cut as much as 2
percentage points off annual economic growth.

Shein blamed the over-use of water catchment areas for a
sharp drop in water levels at hydroelectric dams, which has
forced the country to ration power and rely on costly diesel

He said the eviction order also applied to small-scale
miners who had moved into catchment areas.

Shein also announced a ban on plastic shopping bags used to
pack fruit and vegetables as part of the government's strategy
to stem environmental degradation.

The bags are blamed for harming livestock, blocking
drainage systems and lowering soil fertility.

Shein said the government planned to double the tax on
thicker, industrial plastic bags.