Authorities in Nakasongola District have raised a red flag over the continued diversion of the River Lugogo drainage system at Lubenge trans-border wetland by a Chinese firm.
They claim the diversion of water through excavation works by Kehong China-Uganda Industrial Park at the Lubenge trans-border wetland shared by Luweero and Nakasongola districts has left livestock and farmers at Kakooge, Wabinyonyi and Nakitoma sub-counties without enough water, with several investment firms, including Rhino Sanctuary and Nile Fiber Industries, also affected.
“We are yet to resolve the water crisis as a result of diversion of the Lugogo drainage, despite the many letters written to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema ) for intervention,” Mr Sam Kigula, the Nakasongola District chairperson, said on Thursday.
He added: “We decided to involve Nema because the Chinese firm was reportedly licensed to conduct its activities, despite earlier resistance from the district environment team that had already sensed trouble once the wetland is allocated for unfriendly use.”
Mr Joseph Kalanzi, a livestock farmer at Nakitoma Sub-county in Nakasongola District, said some of the valley dams near the Lugogo drainage are running dry.
“This was not the situation before water was diverted at Lubenge. We pray that the concerned authorities visit these areas to ascertain the facts regarding the water problem,” Mr Kalanzi said .
Ms Helen Nakibuuka, a farmer and resident of Kakooge Sub-county, said they plant yams and their animals get water from the open wetland space that is adjacent to the trans-border wetland at Lubenge, but they have not had water flowing to their area in the past 18 months.
“We suspect that diverting the original water flow for the Lugogo River drainage could be the reason why we do not have the water. We call upon the district environment team to visit our area because the population that derive their respective livelihood from the affected areas could soon starve,” she said .
A Chinese national at the gate of Kehong China –Uganda Industrial Park located on Kampala-Gulu highway at Lubenge trans-border wetland, claimed his bosses had a meeting in Kampala and were not available to comment about the company activities.
However, another worker who only identified himself as Patrick, claimed the company has an Environmental Impact Assessment certificate, and that he is not aware about the alleged water diversion.
“Wait for the bosses to return and explain more about the company activities,” Patrick said.
The Nema’s senior public officer, Mr Tonny Achidria, said the authority has a copy of a recent letter authored by the Nakasongola Resident District Commissioner, Mr Dan Muganga, in regard to concerns over the alleged water diversion.
“We are planning a meeting with the stakeholders over the same. This is a compliance issue that requires continuous monitoring from the district environment officers because they are on the ground. After the meeting, the resolutions and way forward will be shared,” Mr Achidria told Saturday Monitor in a telephone interview.
The Lubenge trans-border wetland once acted as a catchment area for the Lugogo River and green belt before the advent of investment companies and private developers.
The district officials claim the alleged deliberate diversion of the water channel through excavation works at Lubenge wetland has since affected more than 20,000 farmers from three sub-counties, including the people who were directly deriving a living from the wetland, which is now a no-go area for residents.
In April 2016, President Museveni commissioned an Agricultural Industrial Park on 927acres of land at Lubenge wetland. The Chinese investment projected at Shs737b was supposed to promote poultry farming and rice growing as well as employing more than 25,000 residents from Luweero and Nakasongola districts.
Nakasongola District authorities originally protested the investment plan on grounds that the project was handled by Luweero District authorities without involving them, yet the wetland is trans-border. They accused their counterparts in Luweero of giving away large chunks of land under Nakasongola to private individuals and investment companies.
Early this year, Nakasongola District authorities instituted an Adhoc Committee to investigate alleged misuse of the wetland through encroachment on areas supposed to be under the district. The report findings called for halting of all activities and re-surveying of the wetland boundaries by government to ensure new boundary demarcation and protection of the wetland.
The report also called for cancellation of all land tiles issued on land under the Lubenge wetland system, and also have all investment companies and private developers compelled to restore the wetland ecology system, which they claim has contributed to the current harsh climate conditions experienced in many parts of the district.