KIBOGA. A joint team of the Environmental police together and officials from Ministry of Water and Environment have arrested eight people in Kiboga Town Council over encroachment on Nakayenga wetland.
During a Wednesday operation, the team discovered that the culprits had established gardens, car washing bays while others had constructed permanent structures in total disregard of earlier warnings issued by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Mr Emmanuel Esawu, the environmental police unit commandant, said the suspects will be arraigned in court for violating Section 36 of the National Environment Act Cap 153.
“We are fed up of talking to people who disregard our warnings. Let them go and rot in jail,” he said.
He said among other illegal projects established in the wetland include; churches, schools, maize mills, poultry farms and welding workshops.
“Some of these projects are owned by prominent individuals in the area whom we believe know the law. We are giving them a last chance to relocate their property and those who refuse shall witness their structures pulled down,” he said.
Records from the Kiboga District environment department indicate that 60 per cent of wetlands in the district have been degraded through human activities such as farming, house construction and sand mining, among others.
Mr Nicholas Magara, the coordinator of wetlands in central region said the operations are going to be extended to other wetlands including Kiyanja, Kafu and Kitumbi where encroachers were evicted in February but have stubbornly reclaimed the marshlands.
Early this year, government rolled out a boundary demarcation exercise in Kiyanja wetland in a move to conserve the wetland. Kiyanja is a trans-border wetland which covers six districts of Mubende, Kiboga, Nakaseke, Kassanda, Mityana and Luweero. Wetland degradation has devastated the potential of storing water and filtering pollutants. This has caused natural calamities such as floods, pollution of water bodies like Lake Wamala, Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria hence declining fish stocks.
Recently, President Museveni directed district leaders to persuade all wetland and forest encroachers to voluntarily vacate before government uses force to flush them out.
Wetlands in Uganda cover less than 10 percent of Uganda’s land surface area, however these wetlands have been on a downward slide from 15. 6 percent in 1994 to 10.3 percent in 2015. Section 36 of the National Environment Act provides for the protection of wetlands and prohibits reclamation, erection of illegal structures and empowers authorities to demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or above any wetland. The Act also empowers districts to manage wetlands within their jurisdictions and ensure that that their boundaries are clearly demarcated so that even as water levels and wetland vegetation recedes, the communities are clear on where the boundaries lie.