Environmentalists task Nema on Chinese investors destroying wetland

A sand mining site within Nakiyaga wetland system in Masaka District owned by Chinese investors. PHOTO | RICHARD KYANJO

What you need to know:

  • According to Mr Johnson Buyinza, a resident of Kasanje village, which is neighbouring Nakiyaga swamp, trucks have continued to ferry sand from the closed site.

Environmental activists under Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA) have tasked the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to prevail over Chinese investors who are bent on destroying a section of Nakiyaga wetland in Bukakkata Sub County, Masaka District.

Although the investors were last week ordered by Mr January Kusiimwa, the southern regional environmental protection police commander to halt their activities including sand mining and farming, the Monitor has established that they are still operating normally in the area. Mr Kusiimwa, said the Chinese investors who own the project were not cleared to carry out any activity in the area that is close to Lake Victoria shores and home to a large diversity of fragile species. 

According to Mr Johnson Buyinza, a resident of Kasanje village, which is neighbouring Nakiyaga swamp, trucks have continued to ferry sand from the closed site.

"Besides the oral orders made, there weren't any deployments done to enforce the ban. This has given them (investors) a chance to continue with their sand mining business,” he said.

Mr Aloysius Jjuko, the chairperson of Bukakkata Sub County, said the investors have adamantly continued to destroy the wetland.

“When you visit the site nothing has changed, sand mining is going on normally and it appears like they defied the directive,” he said

In a statement dated December 14, Mr Sam Mucunguzi, the programmes coordinator at CICOA, asked Nema to crack the whip and bring the investors to order.

 “Based on your mandate as a semi-autonomous institution established in May 1995 to monitor, regulate and supervise environmental management in the country, Citizens’ Concern Africa demands that your office, immediately stops these developments in the wetlands until satisfactory Environmental Social Impact Assessments are done,” he said.

He also urged Nema to urgently update the public on the degraded part of the wetland by these developers and compel them to restore the wetland in addition to regulating sand mining activities in compliance with environmental laws.

Mr Kusiimwa said his team will organize another site visit this week to check whether the investors complied with the earlier directive.

"Our orders were accompanied by an official communication to the regional Nema offices which promised to take action after making a site visit. So, we are going there with them [Nema team]," he said.

Nakiyaga wetland forms part of the Nabugabo wetland system, which comprises the satellite lakes of Lake Victoria.

The system is a protected Ramsar site, listed as one of the wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

More than 180 bird species, among which have been globally threatened, have been recorded in the Nabugabo wetland system.

Last week, Mr Richard Vvube, the Kalungu District environment officer, admitted having cleared the investors to operate in the area, even when it is part of Masaka District.

“It is true we gave those [Chinese investors] a license to operate in that area. They first applied in 2017 to grow rice and early this year, they sought another clearance to carry out sand mining which we also approved,” he said.


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