Kampala- Areas surrounding Wakiso, Mpigi and Kampala districts could become prone to more devastating flooding after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) confirmed the giveaway of Lubigi wetland, one of the top flood guards around the area.
Part of Lubigi, northwest of Kampala, has already been fenced off by a foreign “investor,” KCCA said.
“There is a hoarding being erected on property near the water treatment plant. The owner intends to put a warehouse and has the approved plans from KCCA,” Mr Peter Kaujju, the KCCA spokesperson, said on Friday.
The area is opposite the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation treatment plant and measures more than an acre (equivalent of a football pitch or more).
Mr Wilberforce Wanyama, the wetlands and aquatic specialist at ministry of Water and Environment, also confirmed that the investor had been issued with an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA ) permit which authorises them to build in the wetland.
“They have acquired the Environment Impact Assessment from Nema [National Environment Management Authority]. The EIA was issued this year according to information we have here,” Mr Wanyama said.
However, the Nema executive director, Dr Tom Okurut, denied issuing such a permit, saying they had not authorised the development in such a critical area that shields Bwaise, Namugoona and Busega, among other areas from flooding.
“Nema has not given that fenced wetland to anyone. We have neither approved it...Instead the actors have been required to remove their fence.Please check with KCCA for any approval of development plan,” Dr Okurut, who was out of the country last week, responded in a text message.
When Mr Wanyama was informed that that Nema had denied issuing the EIA clearance, he said they needed to cross-check again to establish the validity of the EIA certificate.
Section 36 of the National Environment Act provides for protection of wetlands and prohibits any person from reclaiming, erecting or demolishing any structure that is fixed in, on, under or above any wetland.
The swampy papyrus Lubigi wetland has, in recent years come under severe pressure from human encroachment.
In 2011, people claiming to be army veterans attempted to settle there but were stopped and evicted.
In 2013, a group of traders under Uganda Patriotic Voluntary Organisation started constructing stalls in the wetland, claiming they had authorisation from State House but authorities later evicted them.
In 2016, Nema officials destroyed several crops such as cassava, potatoes, maize and sugarcane established.
Lubigi wetland retains and controls floods in and around Wakiso and Mpigi districts.
The wetland starts around Kisaasito in the north, stretching westwards, passing through Bwaise and Kawaala, then straddles southwards through Busega. The swamp has feeder channels on Kampala–Mityana road towards Buloba, Kampala–Masaka road towards Kyengera, Kampala–Hoima road towards Nansana and Sentema Road that stretches from Mengo to Sentema.
Its destruction means areas in the cattle corridor districts of Nakasongola and Luweero and beyond may not have water since some rivers to the districts start from the wetland.
The destruction of Lubigi is not an isolated incident. Many wetlandse have been destroyed to pave away for different activities, including agriculture, industries, roads, settlement among others. Uganda is left with less than 10 per cent of original wetland cover yet the swamps contribute significantly to rainfall formation and water purification.