Nema evicts encroachers from Lubigi swamp

Security operatives oversee the destruction of a sugarcane plantation in Lubigi swamp in Kampala on August 23, 2022. PHOTO | FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • Nema officials said such activities in the wetland lead to flooding and negatively affect the ecosystem of the area.

As the morning breeze glided through Lubigi wetland in Rubaga Division of Kampala yesterday, environment law enforcement officers led by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and police personnel, as well as officials from the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), descended onto the wetland.

Armed with guns, hoes, sticks, and machetes (pangas), the officials embarked on enforcing an order to evict encroachers from the degraded wetland.

The encroachers had constructed homes and grown food and cash crops  on the water catchment area.

Nema officials said such activities in the wetland lead to flooding and negatively affect the ecosystem of the area.

By afternoon, the environment law enforcers had destroyed structures and several acres of crops, including beans, maize, yams and sugarcanes.

Mr Moses Kisembo, one of the affected settlers, pleaded with the law enforcers not to destroy his crops in vain.

Mr Herbert Mulungi, another encroacher, looked on from a distance in disbelief as his sugarcane plantation was being cut down.

Ms Rachel Najjero, a resident of Busega, who witnessed the operation, applauded the move, saying the encroachment had worsened flooding incidents in the area whenever it rains.

“During the dry season, hundreds of people invaded the wetland, burnt down the vegetation cover, constructed residential structures and planted crops,” she said.

“It is also our duty (as residents) to protect the environment. The people cultivating in this wetland are not from these areas but come from as far as Gayaza (Wakiso District) and they are very hostile,” Ms Najjero added.

The Nema executive director, Dr Barirega Akankwasa, said wetlands are a vital component of the ecosystem.

“We issued the restoration order in 2016 to all people who had encroached on the wetland. We gave them notice so that they could move voluntarily,” he said.

“People were given notices on radio and through their local council (village) leaders to leave the wetland,” he said, adding,  “We have to allow the natural wetland flora and fauna to grow.”

He also advised the public to stop eating food harvested from urban wetlands because, he explained, these are a depository for whatever contaminants are sourced from the catchments; hence the need to ascertain the quality of sediment on edible crops.

“The function of wetlands is to store and regulate the flow of the water and when that is destroyed, there will be flooding and silting of water bodies and that is what we are seeing,” Mr Akankwasa said.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, wetlands contribute to water purification, de-nitrification and detoxification, waste water treatment, and provision of food such as fish.


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