What you need to know:
- Kakumiro is currently faced with massive encroachment and degradation of major wetlands by sand miners and local peasants.
- The President has on several occasions directed environment and security authorities to take action against such encroachers.
Environment and security authorities in Kakumiro District have resorted to using force in implementing the presidential directive on vacating wetlands and other endangered natural resources.
Kakumiro is currently faced with massive encroachment and degradation of major wetlands by sand miners and local peasants. The President has on several occasions directed environment and security authorities to take action against such encroachers.
“The issue of the environment – the forests, wetlands, river banks, lake shores, hilltops, is crucial for our survival. We need water and clean air. Both of them come from the wetlands and forests. You cannot say you are a patriot but you damage our wetlands, our forests, our river banks, our lake shores, our steep gradients on which our livelihoods depend. Even food is possible because of air, water. You become a munyanzigwa (enemy) when you damage these,” President Museveni said while officiating at the National Resistance Movement (NRM) day in Kakumiro District on January 26.
Following the failure of soft approach through community sensitisation, Kakumiro District officials have resorted to arresting and prosecuting encroachers.
On Tuesday, 12 people, including an LCI chairperson, were arrested for allegedly encroaching and degrading wetlands.
The suspects were arrested during an operation carried out by district environment authorities, security officials and local leaders in Mpasana, Kisiita and Mwitanzigye sub-counties.
The Kakumiro District Internal Security Officer, Mr Mashala Miraji, said the operation was carried out in an effort to implement the presidential directive on protection of wetlands and other natural resources.
He said the suspects would be arraigned in court once their files are sanctioned.
“We have started implementing the presidential directive on people who are encroaching on wetlands. We have arrested several people and they have been handed over to the police. We have found out that several people have no wetland user permits and others are hiring pieces of land in wetlands from LCI chairpersons,” Mr Mashala said.
The Kakumiro District conservation officer, Mr Christopher Baguma, said LCI chairpersons have been found hiring part of the wetlands to people to grow crops.
Others were found extracting sand illegally. He added that most of the suspects were found growing rice in the wetlands.
“We have been preparing to start implementing the President’s directive. We are also investigating people who claim to be having land titles in wetlands. We were able to arrest people and confiscated their tools,” Mr Baguma said.
The Kakumiro District senior environment officer, Ms Macklyne Namiyingo, warned that wetland encroachment causes climate change.
The encroachers were found channeling water way from the wetlands in order to get space for cultivation of their crops.
The office of the Presidency has directed all resident district commissioners to step up the fight against wetland encroachment.
“As an interim measure, you will be required to forward to us the lists of those with titles in the wetlands so that we can start from here to address the concerns standing in the way of the directive here in Bunyoro sub-region," Ms Milly Babalanda, the minister for the Presidency, said during a capacity building meeting of resident district commissioners and internal security officers in Bunyoro and Tooro regions in Hoima District last week.
Section 36 of the 1995 National Environment Act, states that no person shall reclaim or drain any wetland; erect, construct, place, alter, extend, remove or demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or over any wetland; disturb any wetland by drilling or tunnelling in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland.
It further states that no person shall deposit in, on or under any wetland any substance in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland; destroy, damage or disturb any wetland in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on any plant or animal or its habitat.