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NEMA restores over 15 farms from illegal sand harvesting activities

Residents of Kisumu West and Kisumu East are a happy lot following the restoration of a swathe of over 15 farms by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) from illegal sand and murram harvesting activities.

Leonard Ofula, NEMA Kisumu County Director said that with assistance from the police, they have managed to impound six trucks and arrested three people who are awaiting to be arraigned in court for the offence.

“Presently the police are doing good surveillance and nobody can access those particular areas. We have also worked with the security officers to nab land owners who are excavating fragile pieces of land without the knowledge of the community and the permission from NEMA,’’ Mr Ofula remarked during an exclusive interview with KNA.

He further said that they are trying to create awareness among the residents concerning the issue of environmental degradation that has been taking place in the county. Ofula advised the residents to plant trees and other plant species to play roles in ecosystem conservation.

NEMA is also mainly educating the citizens on what they are supposed to do by holding barazas to talk to community members, and during national events like World Environmental and Clean-Up Days.

“Last month, we were in the Katito area in Nyakach Sub-County where we educated the farmers on the issue of tree planting and conservation. Proceeding on, we will roll out the sensitization drives to other sub-counties so that they become knowledgeable too,’’ Ofula said.

As part of mitigation measures against climate change in the county, NEMA has continuously tried to ensure that all those people intending to excavate murram and sand undertake environmental impact assessment for their pieces of land.

Mr. Leonard Ofula, NEMA Kisumu County Director during an exclusive interview with KNA at his office on Tuesday.

This way, Ofula stressed, the environmental watchdogs will be able to know the impacts and how to mitigate them.

Ofula pointed out that in parts of Kisumu East like in the Buoye-Mahenya sub-location, there has been excavation of murram in very fragile ecosystems. The community around that place have been using the ditches and through the tunnels, they can get their sand and murram.

More worryingly, he explained that these illegal activities have exacerbated land degradation in those areas. The farmers have been unable to fully utilise their land for crop farming and the risky harvesting is affecting those who have houses as they crumble down due to weakened foundation.

Affirming this predicament, the residents of the Buoye-Mahenya sub-location, lauded the timely efforts by NEMA which has saved them from perennial home relocation and destruction of farms due to heavy downpours near the river.

“Some of the youths engaged in illegal harvesting activities have fled and relocated to far-flung areas after a spate of arrests of their colleagues by the security officers from Nyamasaria police station,’’ one of the residents praised while indicating that during heavy downpours the rivers burst their banks and the water flows through the bare ditches to get into their homes.

Sadly, they claimed the tunnels have cost the precious lives of three people in the last three years and their farms have been turned into small dams.

These illegal sand harvesting activities negate the reinvigorated nationwide campaigns by President William Ruto to increase vegetation cover by planting 15 billion trees by 2032. This noble initiative seeks to boost the forest cover and assist in the attainment of the global requirement of 10 percent of the country’s territory.

According to the Government Spokesperson, Isaac Mwaura, over 150 million tree seedlings were planted during a countrywide exercise carried out on the National Tree Planting Day on Monday, November 13.

This will reduce greenhouse emissions and restore 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes.

To augment these efforts, Ofula revealed that they are closely working with the county government to bring sanity to these areas where conservation is required.

“We are asking our citizens to assist us so that we allow them to do excavation where it’s appropriate. Hopefully, this will enable us to achieve our goals. NEMA doesn’t stop the issue of excavation but we want it to be done in a sustainable way and in areas where the environment cannot interfere with lives or other developments around that particular area,’’ Ofula stated.

By Rolex Omondi

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