What you need to know:
- The suspects, who are residents of Teso South in Busia-Kenya County, were on Sunday arrested after reportedly being found slashing and ploughing the wetland.
Seven Kenyans have been arrested for allegedly degrading the banks of River Malaba in Manakor ‘C’ Village, Buteba sub-county, Busia District.
The suspects, who are residents of Teso South in Busia-Kenya County, were on Sunday arrested after reportedly being found slashing and ploughing the wetland.
Their arrest followed a joint operation mounted by Police and the senior district environment officer, Mr Jimmy Ngolobe.
“The suspects had cleared all the wetland vegetation along the banks of River Malaba, including burning of trees and started ploughing the land in preparation for planting,” Mr Ngolobe said.
He added that they were able to establish that all the suspects were non-Ugandans after being found in possession of Kenyan national identity cards.
“We found them carrying Kenyan national identity cards and they confirmed that they were from Kenya,” Mr Ngolobe said, adding that the suspects were booked into Busia Police Station as he embarked on investigations.
“We are interested in establishing whether some Ugandans are working with the suspects to acquire and cultivate land in a wetland,” he further explained.
River Malaba has its source from Mount Elgon and flows through the districts of Bududa, Namisindwa, Manafa, Tororo, and Busia, before confluencing into the Mpologoma which pours its water directly into Lake Kyoga.
However, lately, it has suffered massive encroachment, especially due to farming activities, including growing rice, maize and eucalyptus, which threatens the survival of its ecosystem.
Mr Ngolobe says destroying the vegetation along the banks of River Malaba was leading to soil erosion and increasing silting of the river bed, making it shallow and susceptible to flooding.
He added that some activities along River Malaba banks involved using chemicals to spray on crops which risks further pollution of the river waters with negative impacts on aquatic life, especially fish.
Mr Emmanuel Egesa Eduki, the Buteba Sub-county LC3 chairperson, says he had tipped the district authorities when he discovered massive destruction of the wetland to ensure that the Presidential directive on the conservation of the wetlands was implemented.
According to Mr Eduki, River Malaba has for several years been a source of livelihood to hundreds of families along its bank by providing grazing land for livestock, fishing and water.