Monday, July 13, 2009

Soroti Rock Almost gone to Quarrying

By; John Omoding
The granite rock that stands protruding from the heart of Soroti town faces extinction if indiscriminate quarrying is not stopped

Driven by poverty and economic demands the formerly internally displaced persons (IDPs) have resorted to quarrying activity as one way to generate income to fend for their families.

Among them, engraved in quarrying is Grace Margaret Asamo 51 years old, who entirely depends on rock quarrying proceeds as her sole income for the last six years. 

Asamo was uprooted from her ancestral home in Katakwi following persistent raids by the marauding Karimojong warriors way back 1987.

“We know we are supposed to leave the quarrying activity at this rock but before that government should give us start up capital that will help us open other income generating activities,” Asamo said.

“We use our hands to break the rock. After burning the stone by using firewood it becomes weak so that it can easily be broken using a hammer,” she added.

Despite an ultimatum given by the state minister of Environment, Jessica Eriyo against quarrying activity at the rock six months ago that expired in July 2007 and up to today the quarrying activity is still going on.

According to Soroti environment officer, Francis Opolot his office has been facing challenges and interference from politicians and local leaders as they try to enforce the minister’s directive.
He also indicated that the quarrying group appealed to the minister to give them time to continue with quarrying for some time as they (quarrying persons) save money to enable them move away and open other businesses.

Apparently, NEMA asked the group to form an association then it forwards its application to them seeking permission to continue with the quarrying. However, on the contrary, the Senior Inspector/Register NEMA, Hebert Oule when contacted on phone on June 25, 2009 said that NEMA has never given nor seen such application from Soroti quarrying association seeking for permission to carry the quarrying activity at the rock.

“Ask them to give you a copy of the clearance letter if they have any from NEMA. The fact is NEMA has never given them a go ahead and yesterday when we met the Soroti Municipal authorities it was clearly put to them that quarrying should be stopped with immediate effect and if they don’t do it then NEMA will be forced to intervene and carry forceful eviction,” Oule said.

“I am sure those people were misinformed by some persons in Soroti and we as NEMA do not subscribe to their decision. The Soroti Municipal authorities have until next month to have quarrying stopped,” Oule added.

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