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Ministry Renews Demands For Special Courts to Handle Environment Cases

According to Anywar, while they intend to safeguard the environment from destruction, their efforts are being frustrated by the ordinary court system under which encroachers take refuge to justify their actions or win arbitrary awards against the government.
State Minister of Environment Beatrice Anywar (C) alongside leaders Kamuwunga Landing site some of the areas affected by rising water levels

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The Ministry of Water and Environment has renewed demands to have special courts established to handle environmental cases.

Due to the grave effects of environmental degradation caused by encroachments  on wetlands, cultivating along critical shorelines and river banks, and invasion on gazetted forest reserves, the State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar wants the ministry to be empowered with courts that will address environmental degradation.

The ministry is currently carrying out a national wide assessment exercise on the effects of environmental degradation and the recent flooding in the different parts of the country.

According to Anywar, while they intend to safeguard the environment from destruction, their efforts are being frustrated by the ordinary court system under which encroachers take refuge to justify their actions or win arbitrary awards against the government.

She explains that the rate at which environment is being destroyed requires specialized courts deployed with people having interests in environmental protection who can save the country of the adverse effects of degradation.

She argues that their teams spend a lot of time in courts arguing cases, which gives time to encroachers to continue destroying the environment.

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Anywar’s demands come in the wake of a High Court ruling which awarded DMW Uganda Limited, a sand mining and Fish farming company 181 billion shillings as compensation after government illegally cancelled their operation permit in Lwera Wetland.  

 Anywar explains that they are now going back to the Judiciary and other line ministries to resume the discussions that had earlier been initiated by her predecessor Flavia Munaaba in 2015.    

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 Doctor Tom Okrut, the Executive Director of the National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA, says that they are also working out a program to map out boundaries of all wetlands and forests reserves which will also support their efforts to preserve the environment.

He also indicates that the current NEMA Act needs to be reinforced with a specialized court to enable it to effectively deal with current trends of destruction promptly.   

The Water and Environment Sector Performance Report for 2019 indicates that the country’s wetland coverage on the surface area had been reduced from 15.6% by 1994 to 8.9 percent, while the forest cover has also been gradually reducing from 24% to 12.4 percent; which translates to 3.2 million hectares reducing to 2.5 million ha respectively.