Local leaders in Jinja have been accused of frustrating efforts to fight encroachment on protected areas. Charles Kaganzi, the Jinja District Natural Resources coordinator claims that each time his staff carries out an operation against illegal logging local leaders mobilize residents to chase them away. He accuses some local leaders he didn’t name of conniving with residents to occupy wetlands.
Kaganzi’s complaints come two weeks after it was established that 114 families including those of local leaders, had encroached on over20 acres of wetlands along the shores of Lake Victoria shores in Jinja. Steven Wante, the Bugembe LC 3 chairperson accuses some political leaders of grabbing wetlands with the hope of selling them off for personal gains.
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One of the local leaders implicated for encroaching on wetland is Hamza Wambuzi, the Budhumbuli West LC1 Chairperson. Wambuzi reportedly owns close to two acres of land in Budhumbuli along the Lake Victoria shore. He however, claims that he inherited the land from his ancestors and cannot leave it.
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Magid Magumba, the Chairman Jinja beach management unit says that he has received several complaints where beach management officials are accused of encroaching on wetlands, agriculture, brick making and settlement. Fred Ngobi Gume, the Jinja district LC V chairperson has also confirmed receiving reports implicating local leaders accused of encouraging on wetland. He however, blames the natural resources committee for failing to sensitize residents against wetland encroachment.
He argues that some of the encroachers are simply not aware of the law. He cites about 500 people who were ordered to settle in Kirinya wetland by Mubarak Kirunda, the Jinja central division LC3 Chairperson saying it was a landing site where people could have free plots of land. National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) intervened and the human settlement structures were broken down. Kirunda was summoned to write a statement at Jinja police station over the incident.
Dr. Frank Nabwiso, the former Kagoma county MP and resident of Butamiira village in Jinja, says that it is a shame that the leaders, who passed the law and are meant to monitor it, are the same people frustrating its implementation. He asks the Natural resources committee not to give up on its operations or else the entire Ugandan population will miss out on the benefits of wetlands to human beings.
A 2011 NEMA report on wetlands shows that Uganda had 32,000 sq Km in 1964 but have been reduced to 26,000 sq Km due to encroachment