Photo: Isabella Masinde, Moses Weunda, and Moses Mulomi.
National Environmental Complaints Committee has called on Busia County Government to address deforestation and sand harvesting challenges which have led to environmental degradation.NECC member Isabella Masinde who led environmental ombudsman body to Busia to hear complaints from residents regretted that Busia County has the lowest tree cover at 2.2 percent compared to other counties in the Western region.
“There is need to involve all residents of the County to plant trees on hills and water shades to improve tree cover across the county,” she said during a meeting chaired by Busia Deputy Governor Moses Mulomi.
Masinde said illegal harvesting of sand, poaching of endangered species of animals like Sitatunga and Lake Hippos and other complaints they received from county residents’ needs urgent attention.
As to whether harvesting of sand should be banned or regulated took center stage with environmentalists giving divergent views on the best way to address the issue.
County Environmental Officer Dan Opilio Teso North, Teso South, Nambale and Butula sub-counties were leading in illegal sand harvesting, adding that the impact was massive.
Opilio said streams and rivers have dried up in Teso North because of sand harvesting menace, thus the need to plant bamboo and indigenous trees.
National Environmental Management Authority officer Edward Menza said own farms were adversely affected by illegal sand harvesting in Budalang’i.
“We are holding public barazas to educate farmers on the inherent dangers and to license sand harvesting sites,” He said.
Menza said NEMA was facing challenges of monitoring illegal sand harvesting especially in Teso North where the unlawful activity was done at night.
“We shall work with the police to have harvesters comply with the measures,” he added
Bunyala Environment Officer Paul Kombo said they are encouraging sand harvesters to form groups to have good bargaining power while selling their sand and to carry backfilling in areas where harvesting of sand has been carried out.
The Deputy Governor said the County Government will address areas of concern including afforestation and to form committees to manage sand harvesting, adding that management of water catchment areas and forest cover will be the county’ government’s key priorities.