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Ministry to Handle Case by Case Before Cancelling Titles in Kinawataka Wetland :: Uganda Radionetwork

Ministry to Handle Case by Case Before Cancelling Titles in Kinawataka Wetland

Last month, the Ministry summoned 61 companies and individuals for a public hearing over alleged possession of land titles in the severely degraded Kinawataka wetland.
Map indicating Kinawataka wetland

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The Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Planning has opted to offer a case-by-case hearing before making a decision to revoke titles that were issued within the Kinawataka Wetland system in Kampala.

Last month, the Ministry summoned 61 companies and individuals for a public hearing over alleged possession of land titles in the severely degraded Kinawataka wetland. 

However, at the public hearing held on Thursday, several issues concerning compensation, how titles were acquired, and facts on who is and who is not in the wetland were raised.

Johnson Bigiira, the Commissioner of Land Registration, had mentioned that the listed titles were to be annulled; nevertheless, difficulties highlighted prompted him to abruptly halt the public hearing after he had mentioned that there were issues that needed to be dealt on a case-by-case basis. 

“Some issues raised are critical and it seems many people have different concerns that cannot be handled by this form of meeting,” said Bigiira who was all along answering questions from the affected individuals. 

Before this decision was taken, several attendees at the meeting had contested that their homes were not in wetlands as shown on the strip map that the ministry of water and environment had issued.

For instance, Jackson Nimusiima, the proprietor of plot 48 lake view drive, argued his case by questioning the methods which were used by the ministry to determine who is in the wetland.  

Nimusiima, a civil servant who has occupied this land for the last 20 years, argued that he had made several private consultations which also pointed to the fact that his land was just at the edge of the said wetland. 

Nimusiima informed the officials that several of the certificates of the title listed, including his, were located much higher than the wetland's designated boundaries wondering whether they had made field visits to the place.  

 //Cue in; “how come the…

Cue out…which is which.”// 

Additionally, Nimusiima questioned why a portion of his neighbor’s property had not been listed despite the fact that they shared a highway, but Bigiira tried to answer it by saying that sampled out titles were acquired after the amalgamation of the Constitution in 1995. 

“It is titles before 1995 are going to be handled differently given the fact that The National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources was introduced in 1995. Those who had already settled in the area have a different case,” Bigiira said.   

However, in the meeting, it turned out that several people who had acquired before 1995 had been listed contrary to what the registrar had said.  For instance, Jolly Tuhiirwe Murungi, one of the affected persons, said that around 1990 Kampala Capital City ran an advert in print media calling the general public to issue interest in land situated on Chorley crescent which had been surveyed and partitioned. 

Murungi said until the Ministry of Lands published an advertisement showing her title as one of those that are likely to be revoked, no one had stated that the land is situated in a wetland or a gazetted location since she acquired it in 1991. 

//Cue in; “And I was… Cue out…in a wetland.”//   

Other affected persons also asked the officials to explain what happens in the case of sub-divisions where a title they hold now was subdivided from a mother title that was issued before 1995.

The commissioner noted that such issues could be better solved in the cases by case sessions. 

Some affected parties who accepted that the location where their interest or properties are situated was prohibited for titling or listed as a wetland, asked the ministry of lands why it had issued them titles in the first place.

However, Bagiire accused them of having misled or offered wrong information to the ministry during the land acquisition process. The commissioner also added that the majority of the listed owners had influenced the process. He further added that some of the listed titles are submerged in water thus wondering how the survey could have been carried out in such an area.

//Cue in; “In your application…

Cue out…we are addressing.”// 

The commissioner, however, acknowledged that the government officials at different levels had a responsibility to exercise due diligence before the titles were issued which was not done at the right time. Based on his comment, affected individuals questioned whether they would receive compensation when the ministry moved to revoke their titles but Bigiira told them point blank that no will be compensated.  //Cue in; “Compensation is out… Cue out…out of question.”//  

Meanwhile, as other people tried to make their case to the ministry of lands, lawyers for Meera Investments, which owns over six properties at Hill Crescent and Mukabya Close, presented a court order asking the ministry to stop the process of canceling their clients' titles.

Kinawataka is an 11.9 square kilometre wetland in Nakawa division running from Ntinda ministers’ village, through Kyambogo to Kasokoso up to Luzira bay. The catchment for the wetland stretches across Nakawa, Naguru, Kiwatule, Banda, Namboole, and Mbuya hilltops.

The Ministry of Water and Environment together with the National Environment Management Authority petitioned their lands counterpart to cancel titles that were issued in wetlands beginning with those in areas that have been designated as hotspots for restoration.   

NEMA classifies Kinawataka as a public reserve area that should be preserved for the lake's filtration, regulation of stormwater runoff, and reduction of lake siltation. The wetland is also important for water infiltration and retention, shielding Kampala from floods. 

According to a 2021 study by Sultan Juma Kakuba of Kyambogo University, the wetland has decreased by 46 percent and its degradation rose from 49 percent in 1992 to the present 95 percent.  

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