Nema takes over 3 sand mines in Lwera after permit expiry

Environment Protection Force manager Maj. Joshua Karamagi (R) takes presidential advisor on environjment affairs Prof Gilbert Bukenya on a guided tour across some of the sand mining sites in Lwera on April 23, 2024. PHOTO/JOSEPH KIGGUNDU

What you need to know:

  • Nema has pledged to take on restoration of the open pits at the cost of runaway firms which the authority has vowed to drag to court.

Uganda’s environment watchdog has taken over three abandoned sand mining sites in Lwera swamp along the Kampala-Masaka Highway, Monitor has learnt.

Authorities say the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) “took over the mines following expiry of permits issued to private companies.”

Lwera swamp, which stretches 20kms, is shared by the districts of Mpigi and Kalungu with the latter taking the biggest share.

Nema Environment Protection Force manager Maj Joshua Karamagi said the managers of the firms had to restore the excavated sites in 21 days following expiry of their permits early this year, but they –surprisingly- simply abandoned the sites.

The companies whose permits expired include Lukaya Sand Mine Limited also known as Double Q, HK Investments and Water Cube. 

Maj Karamagi said the permit of Jamasco Investments Ltd expires in one year time and will not be renewed.

“We are surprised that the managers of companies which were ordered to restore the depleted sites and leave- chose to run away and abandon their machinery in Lwera. This is unacceptable and our soldiers are going to man those sites as we look for the owners,” Maj Karamagi said.

He was leading senior Presidential Adviser on Environment and Sanitation, Prof Gilbert Bukenya, who was on a guided tour of Lwera.

Nema has pledged to take on restoration of the open pits at the cost of the runaway firms which the authority has vowed to drag to court.

“During our on-spot inspection on March 11, 2024 we managed to impound trucks, tractors and engines of their dredging equipment which they were using to scoop sand from the deep pits and we shall use those as exhibits in court,” the serviceman warned.

Currently, over 20 sand mining firms are operating in Lwera and majority are located in an area under the jurisdiction of Kalungu District.

Prof Bukenya expressed dismay over the wanton destruction of Lwera under the watch of Nema and local leaders.

“What I have seen on the ground is too bad because companies engaging in sand mining have totally destroyed the wetland without a sustainability plan,” he said.

He wondered how some companies gained access to Lwera and started excavating sand before being cleared by Nema.

“How can a Chinese company come from outside the country and start operating in Lwera for more than 7 years without a permit? This should be investigated and we bring the Nema team and environmental officers in the districts of Mpigi and Kalungu to book,” he remarked on Tuesday.

He added: “I have invited those people to come to my office on Thursday and answer some questions regarding the operation of unlicensed companies in Lwera.”

Bukenya told journalists that he will probe and file a report to President Museveni, seeking action against encroachers.