Mityana authorities forcefully evict wetland encroachers

Mr Yasiin Bbira (right), the Mityana District senior environment officer joins the security and residents to clear gardens in the Bimbye wetland on May 17, 2022.  PHOTO | JESCA NABUKENYA

What you need to know:

  • According to Mr Yasiin Bbira, the Mityana District senior environment officer, the encroachers have been given numerous warnings to voluntarily vacate, but many have refused to take heed.

Environment authorities in Mityana District have embarked on a wetland restoration campaign which will see the eviction of all encroachers.

According to Mr Yasiin Bbira, the Mityana District senior environment officer, the encroachers have been given numerous warnings to voluntarily vacate, but many have refused to take heed.

“My team has talked to those people and also written letters, but they disregarded all the warnings. So, we have no option, but to apply force and flush them out,” he said during an interview on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the district team with protection from the Environmental Protection Police unit started destroying crops like maize, coffee, sugar cane, and banana plantations within Bimbye wetland system.

Mr Bbira said all encroachers who will be found cultivating in wetlands during the ongoing campaign, will be dragged to court for violating Section 36 of the National Environment Act Cap 153.

“Only [residents] those who sought clearance from the natural resources department to carry out environmentally friendly activities, are going to be spared,” he added.

Records from the Mityana District natural resources department indicate that 50 per cent of wetlands in the district have been degraded through human activities such as farming, house construction, and sand mining. Some of the wetlands which have suffered massive degradation include; Kanyamira, Wakitembe, Nsamya, Mayanja, Nabajegere, and Nakasiraga.

However, some encroachers, mainly those cultivating in the wetland, pleaded to authorities to give them up to the end of June to harvest their crops and vacate.

“What we planted will be due for harvest at the end of June, we request that they allow us to remove our crops and go elsewhere,” Ms Jessica Nankya, a resident of Manyogaseka Village, said

Mr Joseph Musisi, a resident at Kyamusisi, a village neigbouring Bimbye wetland, said they were not aware of the laws governing wetlands.

“At Bimbye, we have for many years seen some man cultivating crops and we thought it was acceptable to use such a wetland, but we are surprised to see the authorities destroying all his crops,” Mr Musisi said.

Mr Louis Lule, the chairperson Kalangalo Sub County, said many of the encroachers were evicted three years ago but took advantage of the Covid-19 induced lockdown to reclaim the marshlands.

 “Some of these farming projects are owned by prominent individuals in the area whom we believe know the law, but they are doing it with impunity,” he said

Wetland degradation has devastated the potential for storing water and filtering pollutants. This has caused natural calamities such as floods, and pollution of water bodies on Lake Wamala, Lake Kyoga, and Lake Victoria hence declining fish stocks.

Recently, President Museveni directed district leaders to persuade all wetland and forest encroachers to voluntarily vacate before the government uses force to flush them out.

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