Leaders in Ntungamo are grappling with massive encroachment on wetlands by cultivators which is threatening people’s livelihoods.
The district environment officer, Ms Dinah Tumwebaze, said on Tuesday that nearly all the wetlands in the district have been invaded by crop farmers who grow seasonal crops.
“Cultivators dig channels in the wetlands to grow crops and this affects water flow,” Ms Tumwebaze said. “We have tried hard to see that they do not invade the wetlands but they are adamant. They claim they have nowhere to grow these crops.”
Wetlands play a key role in sustaining the livelihoods of communities and the survival of wildlife and biodiversity both in the catchment and downstream. She, however, did not provide details of the size of wetlands already destroyed. The major wetlands are found in Nyabihoko, Ntungamo municipality, Rweikiniro, Itojo, Bwongyera, Ihunga and Kibatsi sub counties.
The worst hit this year are Rufuha wetland in Rweikiniro and Ntungamo reserve in Ntungamo Municipality. Wetland encroachers claim they do not have nowhere else to grow their crops. “We have been around, cultivating for many years where do they want us to go?” asked Monica Kyasiimire.
Ms Tumwebaze said the biggest challenge the fight against encroachment faces is the lack support from local leaders and limited personel to monitor the environment.
The district secretary for natural resources, Mr Sam Mugabe Karugaba, said the district is designing a wetland action plan for adoption by council. When it comes into effect, it shall deter illegal wetland users and criminalise growing of crops therein.