Cabinet has approved the cancellation of at least 420 land titles that were issued in wetlands and central reserve forests, especially in the districts of Wakiso and Mukono.
The Minister of Lands, Ms Judith Nabakooba, said Cabinet also approved investigations against government officials who participated in the issuance of the land titles in wetlands and forest reserves.
“We were given limited time to work out a plan of restoring the environment and at the same time implement the Cabinet resolution of cancelling land titles in wetlands and forest reserves. The President wants the environment to be restored,” Ms Nabakooba said.
Although she did not provide details of where the titles are to be cancelled, the National Forestry Authority last year sent notices to several people who had titles in Namanve, Kajjansi, Kyewaga and Nonve forest reserves. The process started in 2019.
In January 2020, the then minister of Environment, Ms Mary Kitutu, cancelled 200 land titles in the same area.
However, the process of removing the people possessing titles in the wetlands and forest reserve has been a long and difficult one.
The minister for Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, said wetlands and forests have been disappearing at a fast rate and something has to be done to stop the trend that is likely to cause environmental challenges in future.
Ms Anywar said Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent, while forest coverage have dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent.
“All encroachers in government forests, lake shores and river banks should be evicted and the ecosystem restored. Encroachers are given time to harvest their crops and vacate. Those who fail to comply will be evicted,” Ms Anywar said.
Investigations have revealed that many people or companies that possess land titles in the forest reserves or wetlands got them with the approval of National Forestry Authority.
Cabinet has now directed that government officials, who participated in the issuance of titles in wetlands and forest reserves, be held culpable.
The ministers’ statements echo Mr Museveni’s earlier directives more than five years ago, though no action has been taken.
The President stopped factories from erecting buildings in the wetlands and promised to punish any chief administrative officer or district internal security organisation officer who doesn’t stop such developments.
However, new factories are being still being erected in wetlands all over the country.