GRAPE and vegetable farmers have urged the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) to ban sand extraction activities in Matumburu Ward to save grape and vegetable farms that are on the verge of extinction due to excessive environmental degradation.
Farmers group chairman Donald Masebo told reporters that there had been life-threatening damage caused by sand extraction activities near sources of water they used to irrigate their crops.
Mr Masebo said for a long time the people had been using the area to earn a living, but sand extraction activities were seriously affecting their grape and vegetable farming.
"In fact, as members of the group, we appeal to NEMC to ban sand extraction in these areas. We hope NEMC can help in this, considering that village and ward authorities have allowed an investor to extract sand and degrade the environment," he said.
The chairman said although local government leaders allowed the investor to extract sand from their areas they had never sat down with farmers to see how they could benefit from their areas due to the fact that agricultural activities were diminishing.
Mr Onesmo Chigoma, the investor assigned to their areas, said his work was in compliance with the law and the permit he had.
"I cannot invade areas and start extracting sand without following legal procedures. I have the permission to do it," he said. "I am surprised to learn that a group of farmers want to stop me when various meetings were held and I was allowed to do what I am doing."
Commenting on the matter, Ukombozi local government chairperson Haruna Nyakapala said the investor was conducting sand extraction activities in accordance with the law.
He said the permit was issued after NEMC officers arrived in the area and were satisfied that there was no problem with sand extraction.
He noted that the investor was allowed to dig only after meetings with farmers and after approval.