ARUA. A cross section of stake holders have agreed to coordinate efforts to restore the environment in the refugee hosting districts of West Nile to avert its adverse effects caused by human activities.
Their resolution was passed in a dialogue initiated by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) in Arua town on Friday.
The districts of Adjumani, Moyo, Yumbe, Koboko and Arua are home to over 1.4 million South Sudanese and Congolese refugees according to office of the prime minister statistics.
Addressed among others by Dr. Tom Okurut, the executive director of NEMA, the dialogue among others sought to get the views of other environment stake holders on how best to manage the situation at hand.
The stake holders among others included Local council staff, United Nations agencies, NEMA and office of the prime minister.
“The ideas we want are issues of forestation to improve on land cover because the camps are much affected but the fundamental point is that we need to intervene and intervene now” Dr. Okurut said.
He said strict environmental considerations will be put in place before opening any further settlements in the future to reduce on degradation.
“For any new camps coming, we need to prepare and do assessments by the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) before deciding on not to settle refugees in a particular area; previously there was no time to do such an assessment since it was a case of emergencies” He added.
The dialogue is also part of a proposal that was written by NEMA to OPM to fund environment programs.
Arua district environment officer Mr Joachim Andiandu said the issues that came out of the meeting include the rampant deforestation, poor waste management, pollution caused by fast moving vehicles. Participants also expressed concerns over poor attitude of the communities towards tree planting with others reporting more than 50% death rates from their communities as well as poor maintenance.
Andiandu also said OPM expressed willingness to fund the proposed program and the feedback would be given to the stake holders.
Mr Swaib Abubaker Kama, the acting district forestry officer Yumbe district acknowledged that the forest cover at the settlements is massively depleted. He applauded the efforts being made to have a multi stakeholder effort in mitigate the problem.
“We are engaging environmental police, the National forestry Authority (NFA) and the district leadership to try to preserve especially the indigenous species” he said.
Apart from the settlements, there have been wide spread concerns over the illegal logging in Mount Kei natural forest that hosts a number of plants, bird and animal species
The meetings were organized co-currently with a similar one bringing together the districts of Moyo and Adjumani.