Police together with officials from the natural resources department in Kakumiro District have arrested 10 people for encroaching on wetlands.
The suspects were arrested on Thursday and Friday during an operation in Kijangi Sub-county.
The encroachers were first ordered to cut down crops they had grown in the wetlands before being arrested.
The Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Apollo Mugume, said the suspects were found cultivating in the wetlands of Kamusere, Kyamuyabe, Nyakateete and Mwitambu.
He said the suspects had been given several warnings, including a grace period of three months to vacate, but that they remained adamant.
“We have been educating people about the importance of these wetlands. We have also sensitised local leaders about the same subject but people have failed to leave and now we have started this operation to force them out. We want to restore these areas because of their importance to the environment,” Mr Mugume said.
He said people interested in utilising wetlands should apply for permits from the National Environment Management Authority.
“We have handed them over to police where charges have been preferred against them,” Mr Mugume added.
The district natural resources officer, Mr Christopher Baguma, said the operation will continue.
During the operation, some of the encroachers were found with rudimentary tools such as pangas and hoes draining wetlands and growing crops, especially yams, sweet potatoes and rice. Others had also planted eucalyptus trees.
Ms Kodina Mwiza, one of the victims, said that she was not aware of the demarcation between her piece of land and the wetland.
“I did not know where the wetland starts. We want the district officials to come and tell us which land is regarded as a wetland,” Ms Mwiza said.
Mr Joseph Karama, who was forced to slash his garden of yams before being arrested, said he does not know how his family will survive. “I don’t know what my children will eat because I have no any other food,” Mr Karama said.