Residents of Osipata Village in Teso South Sub County have been urged to plant bamboo trees on the hill tops and along the river beds.
Speaking during a visit at Osipata gulley on Monday, Environment and Forest CAS Mohammed Elmi noted that the hill tops in Busia County are badly degraded while wetlands and riverine systems have been encroached.
‘We have been here and the local residents have complained about soil erosion due to sand,’ he said adding that sand harvesters will now be forced to form groups.
Elmi stated that the relevant departments from the Water and Environment Ministry will form a committee and come up with a plan to rehabilitate River Osipata and establish an organised and sustainable way of harvesting sand.
‘We are not against sand harvesting but we are saying that there has to be regulations within which the activity can be carried out sustainably,’ he said.
He urged the County Assembly to pass the Bill on sand harvesting that has been presented to them by the Executive.
‘As you know, Busia County has one of the lowest forest cover of approximately 2%. Through the Economic Stimulus Package we are ready to collaborate with the County government to support youth groups, women groups and people living with disabilities to set up tree
nurseries especially for bamboo and indigenous trees to help rehabilitate all the degraded sites in the County,’ he said.
The official further expressed concern over the heaps of garbage lying about in towns and nearby urban centres urging the County government to explore ways of turning these waste into wealth.
Busia Deputy Governor Moses Mulomi said that sand harvesting has brought both challenges and potential benefits to the community.
“Sand acquisition as a resource is a challenge because if it is not well planned and can become a serious environmental concern,’ he said.
He said the County, due to its topography and endowment of resources like rivers, there are several associated economic activities like sand harvesting which is a source of livelihood to many.
‘At the same time it is a challenge because it causes erosion which becomes difficult to manage,’ he said.
The official further stated that in some areas, sand blocks roads if not removed adding that in Bunyala area, the sand has caused water back flow affecting 8,000 families.
‘What we would like is a coordinated way of managing these issues,’ he said adding that Busia is not the only county that has been affected and suggested the need to organize sand harvesters into groups that can protect the environment, manage the resource and earn a living.
Busia County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said that uptake on tree coverage was still slow because the local residents have not taken tree seedlings as a business.
Kanyiri added that some people have harvested sand until they formed gullies as they wait for it to be restored naturally.
‘To support the growth you are seeing in Busia, there has been an increase in sand harvesting but we would like to see more people arrested and taken to court,’ he said adding that until one is
arrested people will think that the activity is normal.
He promised to work closely with the environment officer on the ground to help achieve the government agenda.
The local residents complained about their soils and homes being swept away by heavy water from the hill tops.
They urged the government to construct a bridge across River Osipata and establish gabions along the river with a view to reduce soil erosion.
By Salome Alwanda