Namulindwa says government lost the battle against wetland degradation, saying what remains is to help the encroachers to utilize them sustainably without causing more harm. She also asks government to plan for the rising population, which is piling pressure on the available land for cultivation.
The operation has brought down acres of eucalyptus trees, rice gardens, banana plantations and sugarcanes planted in Okole swamp in Railways Division and Ayap swamp, Odokomit trading center along Kampala road. Some of the notable encroachers at Okole swamp include Arak Farm and a one Fred Okello.
Uganda Radio Network has learnt that many charcoal burners in Katakwi are targeting the tree which is locally known as Ekungur in Ateso because it produces high-quality charcoal, which has attracted a large market in neighbouring Kenya. Men, Women and Youth are depending on charcoal for their livelihood.
The three; Isaiah Tweheyo Kakuru, 30, and Janet Twinomugisha, 31, both residents of Kakoba ward, and Birari Ndolero, 50, a driver from Kamukuzi division, were arrested after uprooting demarcations erected by the National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA.
Maud Kamatenesi, the Vice chancellor Bishop Stuart University and environmental activist, says there is need for NEMA to reach to people and sensitise them on the challenges of degrading the environment.
Simon Peter Okoshi, the Deputy Commandant of the Environmental Police Protection Unit, says the operations were prompted by numerous complaints on the rapid destruction of the ecosystem in the country.
Simon Episu, a resident of Komolo village also claims to have paid the same officer Shillings 50,000. The Arapai Sub county LC V councilor, Daniel Denis Obonyo faults the law enforcement officers for extortion, saying the cases are no longer stranger in the area.
Jackson Magara, the Proprietor Katete Washing Bay, says the municipal officers are concerned about the license fees. He however, says they have already ready eviction notices from the National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA.
The wetland, which borders the districts of Mbarara and Sheema, feeds into Kooga, another wetland and Rwizi River, the main source of water for thousands of people in Mbarara, Sheema and Isingiro districts.
Every day, more than 10 trucks loaded with more than 150 charcoal bags each leaves Katakwi district to various destinations. Most of these are destined for Soroti, Mbale, Jinja, Lira and Kampala districts. A bag of charcoal costs between 15,000 and 25,000 Shillings in Katakwi.
In November 2016, the district conducted a community campaign to stop the indiscriminate cutting of trees. But just over a month after the campaign, charcoal burning and selling wood fuel remains high in the area. The activities are mostly common in the sub counties of Arapai, Katine, Gweri, Asuret and Kamuda.
Godfrey Mutemba, the NEMA coordinator for Southern region, most local councils are operating without lower environmental management committees hence giving a leeway to acts of environmental degradation.
The Production Sharing Agreements that have been circulated by a London based NGO-Global Witness reveal that the government of Uganda did not negotiate bad deals like critics and Civil Society Organisations have been claiming.