ENTEBBE. The government has asked encroachers on Namiiro Wetland in Entebbe Municipality to surrender their land titles and land sales agreements to Ministry of Environment for verification.
However, some encroachers have claimed ownership of genuine land titles in the wetlands.
“We have ordered those [encroachers] with land titles to surrender them to us, but I doubt whether there is any one with a genuine land title, I think they only want to make it hard for us to restore the wetland,’’ Mr Joseph Ongol, the assistant commissioner in charge of Wetland Management in the Water and Environment Ministry, said on Wednesday.
However, according to a source in Entebbe Municipal Council, most of the land titles were acquired fraudulently and are likely to be cancelled.
“How did they acquire land titles in a wetland which belongs to government? Let them be verified and they are likely to be cancelled because they didn’t acquire them through proper channels,’’ a source said.
According to a notice issued by Ministry of Environment last month, residents were given a 21-day ultimatum to vacate the wetland.
Mr Ongol said the ministry had decided to re-demarcate boundaries of the wetland and those who will be found within the critical section of the wetland will be evicted without any compensation given to the complainants.
“We are going to conduct the restoration process in phases, the first phase is going to focus on restoring the most critical areas, while the second phase will be about sensitising the remaining people about the importance of protecting wetlands,’’ he added.
According to Mr Jamadah Tabula, a resident in the area, they are not going to allow anyone to evict them.
“Let our leaders come on the ground because we bought this land and some local leaders signed even on the sale agreements, if they knew it was a wetland, why did they sign?” Mr Tabula, who is a boda-boda rider asked.
Ms Joan Nanteza, another resident questioned why the village chairperson Lugonjo-Nakiwogo Village, Mr Paul Zikuriza, has snubbed several meetings convened to discuss their fate yet he is usually invited.
But when contacted, Mr Zikuriza, said he only skipped one meeting which was convened at the village by area MP Ms Rosemary Tumusiime last Sunday because he was attending a burial.
Ministry of Environment statistics show that Uganda has lost more than 30 per cent of the wetlands in the last 23 years. This trend indicates the country’s increased risk and vulnerability to natural disasters and other effects of climate change. 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 local leaders in districts to manage wetlands within their jurisdictions and ensure their boundaries are demarcated.