Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Home > Counties > Garissa leaders raise concerns over deforestation by refugees

Garissa leaders raise concerns over deforestation by refugees

Leaders in Garissa County have raised concerns over environmental degradation through cutting down of trees for firewood and charcoal by refugees in several refugee camps in Dadaab sub county.

Led by Garissa governor Nathif Jama and Dadaab MP Farah Maalim, the leaders called on the Kenya Forest Service Officers to protect their forests even as the county government puts efforts to plant more trees in a bid to increase tree cover.

The leaders asked the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide alternative sources of fuel for the refugees to tame the cutting down of trees.

On Friday and Saturday, residents of Kulan with the help of Kenya Police Reservists confisated donkey carts fully loaded with mature indigenous trees of acacia type headed to different refugee camps within Dadaab.

According to Kula Senior Chief Mr. Abdi Dekow, the residents and police reservists acting on a tip off, laid traps on all the panya routes that used by the refugees to pass after cutting the trees on their way back to the refugee camps.

When the press visited the Kulan police station, 95 donkey carts that were loaded with mostly the acacia tree were still there. Ninety-Six refugees were also arrested.

Speaking to the press at the Kula police station, Jama, expressed regret at the turn of events, saying that it was unfortunate to see the environment degraded in that manner by the refugees.

“We have never seen destruction of this magnitude, the entire environment and the trees within the sub county have been depleted by the actions of the refugees,” Jama said.

“I come here as a very angry man. This is something unacceptable. We always knew that the refugees who of course we welcomed in our midst were cutting trees for their cooking requirements. But we never imagined that a day would come when they would cause such massive destruction,” he added.

He said that cutting down of trees by the refugees in the sub county is something that has been going on for the last three decades and their efforts to have the same addressed by the relevant government and UNHCR agencies have not borne any fruit saying that time has come for them to take initiative in their own hands to save the environment.

The Governor called for forest rangers, scouts and the security officers to be stationed in the affected areas to prevent more cutting down of trees.

He said that going forward his administration will employ a number of rangers in Kulan, Liboi, Dadaab and its environs whose mandate will be to protect the environment. He disclosed that his administration will embark on creating conservancies, Mazingira parks to make sure that the environment is protected for prosperity.

Jama, who also launched the Kula environment park where trees will be planted said that the main aim was to have a green belt and urged the residents to make it as a culture of growing trees.

On his part, Labasigale Ward MCA Mr. Mohamed Sheikh expressed regret that the refugees have also not spared the wildlife saying that they were also engaging in poaching giraffes.

Sheikh disclosed that there was an active case in his ward where the refugees killed three3 giraffes.

The MCA who is also the Assembly Chair of the committee on environment, climate change and natural resource said that the Assembly had already passed the environment, restoration and livelihood bill which he said will go a long way in addressing the challenges.

“We have gaps when it comes to addressing some of these issues. Unfortunately, the gap is coming from the Kenya Forest Service because they don’t have officers on the ground nor do they have established offices here in the refugee complex,” Sheikh said.

“They operate from Garissa. And even when they come to this side, they only spend a day or two.  Such weighty matters cannot be addressed in such a manner,” he added.

Carnol Nguli, the camp manager responsible for the refugees regretted that the issue had been going on for some time and said that he will pass the same to the refugees and the UNHCR organs.

“This obviously cannot continue. We cannot accept this to continue happening because if we don’t stop it immediately then what that means is that this place will become a vast desert,” he said.

He said among the immediate measures that will be taken will be to ensure that the freedom of movement of the refugees into areas where they can cause damage is curtailed.

Garissa remains the largest refugee-hosting county in the Country with 360,000 refugees spread in the Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley camps.

By Erick Kyalo

Leave a Reply