Continued destruction of wetlands in Kampala and its suburbs has now claimed a swamp that filters sewage and emissions from various areas in Nakawa Division and Kira Town Council in Wakiso District.
The reclamation of the wetland started late last year, according to residents. An unknown investor ferries trucks of murrum in the night.
In one swift but well syndicated dumping, several lorries were used to ferry murrum from the shoulders of the Kampala-Jinja highway, at Kyambogo, and poured into the swamp.
What was a flourishing swamp with papyrus and yams is now a large yard of red soil. Apart from the lost ecosystem uses, residents are now worried about the expected flooding in the hinterland.
According to Mr Victor Ssegawa, a car washer at Kinawataka, whenever it rains, Kyambogo and Kireka areas flood.
“I have been washing vehicles from here for years but since they reclaimed this wetland, the water is very black and it burns your legs and hands. And the stench it carries is worse,” Mr Ssegawa said.
“The water has turned toxic in that whenever we use it, the skin peels off the feet and hands,” he added.
Katoogo wetland, which stretches from Banda to Kinawataka connects to Lake Victoria through the inner Murchison Bay at Luzira, also drains suburbs east of Kampala whenever it rains.
Areas which have been dependent on its existence include; Kyambogo, Kinawataka, Mbuya, Kireka and Bweyogere, among other areas. There are several factories located in the area.
Farmers cry out
Another resident only identified as Eric who has been using the wetland to cultivate yams and maize alleges that due to the continued destruction of the natural filter, plants now rot before maturity while others turn poisonous.
“Our yams rot before maturity. You till the land but at the end of the day you harvest nothing. We have nowhere to report because we are told that the wetland is being taken by people in high offices. If we try to confront them, police is there to protect them,” Eric claimed.
Dr Tom Okurut, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), said he was not aware of any activity going on at the disputed wetland.
“Authorisation for development and or construction is done by city authorities. As Nema, we have not approved or issued a certificate (Environment Impact Assessment) regarding that area,” Dr Okurut said in a telephone interview.
Kampala Capital City Authority publicist Peter Kaujju said there was no approval for the development and said notices were issued by various government agencies to developers to vacate the wetland.
“Last week we stopped the dumping and impounded some trucks,” Mr Kaujju said.
Mr Kaujju who could not divulge the measures being hatched to halt the ongoing activities revealed that there are restoration efforts, including planned evictions.
He said KCCA was aware that every month, about 10 new encroachers attack the wetland.
On the matter of feacal contamination in the swamp, Mr Kaujju said KCCA in partnership with NWSC will build toilets in Banda parish. “This will help check the problem,” said Mr Kaujju.