In the dense green lowlands of the Egyptian Delta, midway between the Rosetta and Damietta branches of the Nile where salt and fresh water meet, lies the vast Lake Burullus. Best known as a birders’ paradise, Burullus also hides traces of ancient history in its serene setting. The second-largest lake in Egypt, Burullus produces nearly 10,000 tons of fish annually.
The lake contains a large number of isolated islands. According to the latest study by researcher Abdel-Qawi Khalifa, the drainage of large areas of the lake—carried out despite its status as a nature reserve—has brought the actual lake area down to 81,000 feddans as well as damaging fish farms. A considerable volume of polluted agricultural run-off also runs into the lake, which in turn harms and threatens human health.
Local fishermen have a problem with criminal gangs who assume control of activities on the lake to threaten young fishermen, often preventing them from fishing. Fishermen also complain that they are overlooked by the government and even by the associations that ought to protect them. The fishermen say they have no health or social care nor any educational or cultural opportunities.
All in vain
The fishermen’s conditions and concerns have been covered in a report released by the Earth Centre. There have been successive attempts to resolve some of the issues, but all have come to nothing.
The report reviewed a number of recommendations seeking improvements in the living and working conditions of the fishermen and protection of their rights.
Among the recommendations, was creating a database of fish stocks to be made available to researchers and to prevent breaches of fishing regulations. The idea would be to put a stop to fishing during crucial hatching periods. It was also recommended that operations to drain areas of the lake be stopped immediately.
Among the other recommendations was a fund for fishermen’s compensations through cooperative societies to reimburse people who cannot go out with their boats during the ban periods, and to create developmental projects to improve conditions. It stressed the importance of proper health and social care for fishermen and of raising pensions.
The report recommended purifying the lake water and putting an end to aggression by fish farm owners on free fishing zones, as well as preventing garbage being thrown into drain water.