Entebbe- In 2007, the Bugonga Ward, Division A councillor in Entebbe Municipality, Mr Achilles Kiwanuka Ssubi, tabled a motion before the division council to demolish all illegal structures within the 200-meter lakeshore zone. Council threw out the motion.
In 2012, after he was elected vice chairman of the division, he tabled the same motion and the council this time around passed a resolution to demolish all structures along the lake shoreline in Entebbe.
The motion, however, was later shelved as no person took the initiative to implement what the division council had passed.
Entebbe is surrounded by water and has Entebbe-Kampala highway as the only road-link that joins it to other parts of Uganda to stop it from being an island that makes it a peninsular.
Fred Sseremba, a fisherman at Bugonga Landing Site, notes that right from Kigungu to Kitubulu where Entebbe ends, people have constructed beaches and hotels with fences running upto the lake.
The people who occupy the lakeshores even put up fences outside their gates baring residents from accessing the lake and stopping fishermen from fishing within their jurisdiction.
Many fishermen especially in Bugonga and Kigungu have been arrested over trespass when they attempt to fish in places where people have set up hotels and beaches.
“A guard at a fisheries company near the airport recently shot at fishermen fishing near the company waters, fortunately, no one was hurt. They later ordered us to leave and fish in the deeper waters away from their vicinity,” he said.
Mr Robert Sempala, a senior resident in Entebbe, says people used to get hooks and small boats to get fish to earn a livelihood but this has all ended with the increasing development where people construct beaches and hotels.
Worse still, some have erected toilets that drain all the wastes into the lake and these claim they got permission from National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and Entebbe Municipal Council.
“Even those leaving near the lake have built past their gates and expanded towards the lake to set up mini beaches like it is the case on Nambi Road,” he says.
Save for gazetted landing sites like Kigungu, Bugonga, Nakiwogo and Guda where people freely go and fish, all the lake surrounding Entebbe has been taken over by developers and the army that has two main barracks along the lakeshore.
Kitubulu Landing Site was closed towards the Common wealth Heads of Government Conference in 2008 and no fisherman has ever been allowed to go back there and fish.
The National Environment Management Authority and Entebbe Municipal Council in 2012 gave a 90-day ultimatum to all people who had constructed within the 200-meter zone to demolish their structures.
The matter was, however, a media show off as no action was taken to follow up whether the suspected encroachers vacated.
As time went on, both Entebbe Municipal Council and NEMA started trading blame on how each had failed to raze the illegal beaches.
Entebbe Municipal Council since holds its events at one of the beaches it had threatened to raze down because it had a toilet along the lakeshore.
Nema executive director Tom Davis Okurut, in an earlier interview, said Nema works with municipal authorities to stop environment degradation of the lake or wetland and Nema does the supervisory role.
Mr David Wasswa Kasule, the Chairman Division A, however says they can’t hurry to demolish structures without Nema because it may sometimes have permitted the suspected encroachers and they take the council to court.
BRIEF BACKGROUND AND DEVELOPMENTS
In a bid to save the environment, Kampala High Court Judge Anup Singh Choudry last week gave Entebbe Municipal Council and the National Environment Management Authority four weeks to demolish all illegal structures erected along Nambi Beach Road shoreline in Entebbe short of which will take them to court.
Meanwhile, National Environment Management Authority and Entebbe Municipal Council in 2011 threatened to close all beaches on this stretch saying they were blocking residents from accessing the lake and some had toilets on the lakeshores.
The authorities however offered lip service or a media show off as they left the beaches to operate up to date.
In December 2011, officials from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Entebbe Municipal Council at the weekend closed at least 14 beaches for allegedly faulting environment regulations and barring people from accessing Lake Victoria’s shores.
The operation spearheaded by the Nema police, Entebbe Municipal Council and Nema Natural Resources Department officials also saw beach managers arrested for allegedly degrading the environment, erecting structures without an environment impact assessment and undertaking activities without a permit.
“We want to make free public access of lake shores in Entebbe because people who buy land near lakeshores have taken over parts of the shores yet laws provide for leaving 200 metres from the lake,” Mr George Lubega Matovu, Nema’s Natural resources management specialist, said.
He said the beach owners are operating in the said places without land titles, licences, approved plans for the beaches and lake shores wetland permit, breaching Nema laws. He said they will issue the owners with restoration orders giving them three weeks to raze the structures.
Among the beaches closed were Siena Beach Resort, Black and White Lounge Restaurant, Anderita Beach Hotel, Island Café Beach Hotel and Mulowoza Restaurant. Others had no specific names but were owned by different private people.
Entebbe Mayor Vincent DePaul Kayanja said some beaches like Sienna and Black and White restaurant had constructed toilets along the lakeshores with their soakpits in the lake while others had their sewer system directed to the lake, a development he described as selfish.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Wetlands, Riverbanks, and Lake shore Management Regulations No 3/2000 under Section 107 of the National Environment Act Cap 153 shows that the Lakeshore means the land not more than 100 meters adjacent to or bordering the lake.
Regulation 16 shows that a Special permit can be obtained with respect to permissible activities under first Schedule to the regulations while regulation 17 gives the duty of landowner, occupier, or user who is adjacent or contiguous with a wetland to have a duty to prevent degradation or destruction of the wetland and shall maintain the ecological and other functions of the wetland.
Regulation 19 describes the objectives of regulating the lakeshores among which is to facilitate the sustainable utilisation and conservation of resources on lake shores for the benefit of the people and community living in the area, provide for the regulated public use and enjoyment of lake shores, Provide for the regulated public use and enjoyment of the lake shores and prevent salutation of the lake shores and control pollution and degrading activities.
Clause 2 of article 237 of the Constitution of Uganda shows that the government or local government as determined by Parliament by law shall hold in trust for the people and protect natural lakes and land to be reserved for ecological and tourist purposes for the common good of all citizens.
With all the provisions, people continue building within the 200-meter zone and block indigenous people from accessing the lake.