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Sand harvesting along River Saiwa discouraged

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Trans Nzoia County, has with immediate effect banned sand harvesting along river Saiwa in Trans Nzoia East Sub County.

County director NEMA Valentine Lala at the same time stopped cultivation along the river bank which he said threatened wetlands in the county.

This is after it emerged that sand harvesting was affecting the water levels, consequently adversely affecting Saiwa Swamp National park, the home of Sitatunga Antelope.

NEMA is also working with the County government of Trans Nzoia and Saiwa Swamp National park Warden in charge to discourage the harvesting and other human activities along the river.

Lala said people interested in sand harvesting business must acquire licenses for the same to ensure accountability and following of environmental management laid down conditions.

“We want residents who also lease their land for quarries to acquire license. Let them follow due procedure. We expect that contractors must refill the quarries after completing the work,” she said,

Speaking at Wiyeta Primary school while marking World Wetlands Day(WWD) on Saturday, The county Director of Environment Godfrey Wekesa said a committee has been put in place to oversee the protection of rivers in the county.

He said the county government was enforcing environmental laws in a bid to conserve wetlands and urged those who want to engage in the business to seek direction from NEMA and the county government.

Wekesa also advised residents not to kill harmless wild animals when they escape to their farms as this continued to reduce the numbers of the animals.

Senior Warden of Saiwa Swamp National Park David Oyugi decried thriving of Elephant grass that is destroying other types of grass at the park due to chemicals used by farmers at Saiwa river banks.

He said the chemicals are interfering with the composition of elements in water and soil causing the elephant grass to thrive.

According to Oyugi, Sitatunga antelopes do not eat elephant grass hence escape to neighbouring areas seeking for the right type of grass where some end up being killed. As at now, the number of Sitatunga antelopes has reduced to less than 100.

Other wildlife found in Saiwa swamp national park included brazza monkeys and crested cranes among others.

The founder of the Kipsaina Cranes and Conservation group Maurice Wanjala said that in partnership with International Crane Foundation (ICF), the group is providing alternative environmental friendly activities for conservation of Saiwa Swamp.

Among the interventions the group is offering is provision of dairy goats to farmers along the river Saiwa, beehives and encouraging others to practice zero grazing.

According to Wanjala,  river Saiwa that drains into Saiwa swamp national park had a riverine forest of indigenous trees but human activities depleted it. However, the county government will partner with farmers, youth groups and CBOs to plant the trees, affirmed Wanjala.

By Moses Wekesa

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