Last Monday, Water and Environment was one of the ministries that presented their performance in the implementation of the 2016 NRM manifesto.
The ministry’s director for water resources management, Dr Florence Grace Odongo, revealed that the water levels on Lake Victoria have risen to 13.4 metres short of 8cm to reach last year’s levels and yet the rainy season has just started. People living on river banks and lake shores were, therefore, warned to vacate the areas before floods begin to rage.
Such warnings have become an annual repetition albeit in good faith as they are meant to avoid loss of lives and property.
Unfortunately, they are usually taken lightly by the audience for whom they are intended.
But then again, these people rightly referred to as encroachers would not even be there in the first place if environment laws were observed. Clearly, there seems to a problem when it comes to implementation of laws.
In a Daily Monitor story of May 14 titled, “Govt issues flood alerts, tells lakeside residents to vacate”, Mr Sam Cheptoris, the minister of Water and Environment, says one of the reasons they have not been able to contain encroachment and destruction of forests and wetlands is because of low enforcement of laws which is exacerbated by the fact that there are few enforcement officers under the environment protection police unit.
In a statement on the rising water levels of Lake Victoria and the Nile system last year in May, Mr Cheptoris directed that people living within the protection zones of wetlands, lakes, rivers, and forest reserves vacate with immediate effect.
He said the ministry was working with the Ministry of Local Government and other government agencies to evict people living within 100 metres of river banks, 30 metres of wetlands and 200 metres of lake shores, and in forest reserves.
He said the respective government offices, from the central to local levels, up to the sub-county and parish levels, has been informed about the directive and requested to take the required actions with immediate effect.
Was there an attempt to implement these directives in spite of the shortage of enforcement officers? What action is being taken against encroachers and how is government making sure that they do not settle in those areas again? How can the communities near the said areas be involved in stopping encroachment?
It would be prudent to present an audit of whether these directives were successfully implemented and if not, what can be done this time to get a better results.
This way, we can avoid repetitions of the same directives year after year with no lasting solutions.