A recent rush for land titles near Lake Wamala has encouraged unsuitable activities into the lake which environmentalists warn could compromise its existence in the near future.
Although historically known for receding and expanding, several land titles in public and mailo land have been issued inside the boundaries of the lake from the land boards of the districts surrounding the lake such as Mityana, Mubende and Gomba.
According to Mr Yasin Bbira, the Mityana District natural resource officer, 90 land titles have been issued from the district land board alone in less than 10 years. In Mubende, 30 land titles have been issued in the lake. Mr Bbira said most of the land issuers do not go on ground to see where people have applied for land before issuing titles.
Currently, land owners are farming up to the lake shores, people have settled and built homes in the buffer zones whereas fish stocks are said to have reduced significantly.
The lake has, according to Mr Bbira, over the years reduced by 80 square kilometres and has in recent times nearly completely dried up twice – in the 1950s and in 1994.
“The challenge we have is that unlike forests, the lake shores are not marked and when the lake recedes people go and acquire land titles which are usually not brought to us for verification,” Mr Bbira said, adding: “But we are currently compiling an inventory of landlords to establish how they got the land titles, whoever bought land in the lake after 1995 will not be compensated,” Mr Biira said.
Mr Vincent Kinene, the district environment officer, says the receding nature of the lake leaves behind attractive land suitable for many activities including farming and grazing for which many big shots have acquired titles in Mubende District.
Call to Nema
According to Mr Kinene, it takes months and even years for the lake to return to its original shape as different sides advance at different rates. The environment officers are now calling upon the National Environment Authority to remap the lake and make the exercise as often as the lake changes shape.
In Gomba District, the district natural resources officer, Ms Winnie Kyobutunzi, says people have even built inside the buffer zones and that even efforts through the Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme to restore the lake and other natural resources have not yielded since have not kicked off due to lack of funds.