Tuesday February 18 2014

Halt wetland encroachment

Environmental degradation is a big issue in Uganda where some so-called investors and other settlers encroach on forest reserves, water bodies and wetlands for various gains. The latest degradation is happening in Kinawataka, a city suburb.
The wetland, according to environmental experts, helps filter sewage and other industrial emissions from areas surrounding Nakawa and Kira Town Council before the water pours into Lake Victoria.

But certain investors have decided this process of filtering waste is not necessary. They have, therefore, continued ferrying truckloads of murram and heaping it on the wetland to create some level ground for a construction site.

Kampala Capital City Authority acknowledged there was no approval for the developments. The authority claimed notices had been issued by different government agencies but nothing has been done to reverse the trend. However, what is clear is there is a section of police in charge of environment. The question is, have these law enforcers been approached or petitioned over the degradation happening at the Kinawataka wetland? What have they done?

Shocking statistics reveal that Uganda has lost more than 30 per cent of her wetlands in the last 15 years to rapid urbanisation, settlement and agricultural activities. We cannot let these statistics increase by double digits before we sound the alarm for the sluggish law enforcers to take action.

There are claims the degraders are well-connected individuals, sometimes referred to as ‘untouchables’. This is the time to name and shame these individuals. One resident was yesterday quoted by this paper saying: “We have nowhere to report because we are told the wetland is being taken by individuals in high offices. If we try to confront them, police are there to protect them.”

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) threw the ball back to KCCA, claiming they had not issued any certificate (Environment Impact Assessment) for the wetland. However, as the blame game continues, the land-hungry tycoons continue ferrying more soil and dumping into the wetland.
What used to be a flourishing swamp with papyrus and yams is now a large yard of red soil. Apart from the destroyed ecosystem, residents are also worried of the looming floods. Let KCCA, Nema and the police halt this mess before it creates a bigger problem.