What you need to know:
- Although the minister says the activity is being regulated, residents want it banned.
- Mr Henry Kintu, a resident, said although President Museveni ordered Nema to stop issuing permits to sand miners in Lwera wetland, they had not taken action.
Residents of Kamuwunga Village in Lukaya Town Council, Kalungu District, have clashed with the State Minister of Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, over continued sand mining in the area.
While inspecting a flooded section of the village on Lake Victoria shoreline on Tuesday, Ms Anywar told the residents that mining is a regulated commercial activity which supports infrastructural development and investment.
“For a long time, our people have encroached on Lwera wetland because of population pressure and cultivation. But sand mining has no problem since it is regulated by Nema (National Environment Management Authority),” she said.
However, the residents said sand mining was one of the activities causing flooding of the lake.
Mr Henry Kintu, a resident, said although President Museveni ordered Nema to stop issuing permits to sand miners in Lwera wetland, they had not taken action.
Ms Anywar said her ministry was in advanced stages of evicting the encroachers.
“We are going to work with you (local leaders) to reinstate and reaffirm the policy position as directed by the President.
“It is time we demarcate our boundaries. We want to make it clear for these people (encroachers) to systematically move away and there is no compensation for you,” Ms Anywar said.
But residents protested the plan. “Why are you planning to evict us during this time of Covid-19 when we don’t have money? Why are you leaving the sand miners? Those are double standards,” Ms Hellen Namugimba, a resident, said.
Dr Tom Okurut, the Nema executive director, said the Lwera wetland system, which is about 20km long, has a small dry part where they had permitted some human activities.
“We are ensuring that the area is protected through routine inspection. Sand mining is not everywhere in Lwera. Rice growing activities are also carried out on a dry part,” he said.
A 2016 report by Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee revealed that sand mining had reduced fish stock.
It recommended banning of the activity. By 2016, there were 20 sand mining companies and 23 sites in Lwera, but only five have compiled with the Nema guidelines.
Lwera wetland is a major water catchment area that connects several rivers and wetlands in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts, and drains into Lake Victoria. Situated on the Kampala–Masaka highway, the wetland has in the past decade attracted many companies and individuals who are engaging in sand mining.