Tuesday March 4 2014

Government cancels all land titles on wetlands

The Kinawataka wetland in Kireka, a Kampala suburb, which has been encroached on by investors.

The Kinawataka wetland in Kireka, a Kampala suburb, which has been encroached on by investors. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZi.  

By Stephen Otage


The Attorney General has instructed the National Environment Management Authority and the Ministry of Water and Environment to recall all land titles that were issued on protected areas for cancellation.

While addressing Kampala MPs, city divisions councillors and National Water and Sewerage Corporation staff in Bugolobi, Mr Freddie Ruhindi, the deputy Attorney General, yesterday said he is perplexed that NEMA and the ministry are not implementing a Cabinet directive instructing them to recall all land titles which have been issued on protected areas like swamps, wetlands and forests yet degradation and encroachment on them going on at an alarming rate.

“I know and I am aware of a cabinet directive cancelling all the land titles which have been issued on wetlands and protected areas but I do not know why these agencies have not acted on the directive,” he said.

Response to complaints
Mr Ruhindi was responding to complaints from fellow politicians about the rate at which wetlands around the city were being degraded yet they act as sponges to sieve all the pollutants pouring into Lake Victoria. He was speaking at the launch of the Water Community Communications Clubs at the NWSC International Training Centre in Bugolobi.

“As an MP, the decision has already been taken so the land titles should be cancelled. If they want my legal opinion, I can as well give them. I am putting you on notice but it is again unfortunate that leaders are involved,” he said.

According to Dr Silver Mugisha, the NWSC boss, the Water Clubs comprise of 20 members including divisional mayors and water professionals and it is among the many strategies the Corporation is using to engage communities living around Lake Victoria in protecting the lake because of the high costs of treating the water which the corporation is encountering.

“We are mandated to supply water and sewerage services but we want the communities to understand the challenges we face when producing the water. We want them to start reporting incidents of degradation and pollution so that we may reduce losses coming from non-revenue water,” he told journalists.

The Attorney General’s comments come at a time when wetlands around Kampala have literally disappeared after encroachment by powerful developers. The impact in Kampala has been felt in terms of flooding around the city, depriving the lake of rain it depends on.

City wetlands

Kampala has an area of about 238 square kms, a big part of which was once a wetland. Today the wetlands in Kampala are on the verge of extinction as they are being threatened by the increasing population in the city. Kampala’s wetlands are mostly located on the shores thus their waters are collected and poured in the lakes like Victoria which is the largest in East Africa. What has remained of these places is the drainage channels which have diverted the flow of water out of these wetlands.

The expansion of the city from its old self to the current location has greatly led to the depletion of wetlands around it. Historically, Kampala’s wetlands go back before 1900 when they belonged to the Kabaka. Under the colonial rule, these wetlands were turned to the Queen of Britain in the name of crownland and were supervised by the colonial governors. No person during that time was allowed to encroach on these wetlands.