Environmentalists are accusing Rakai district leaders and Water Minister, Maria Mutagamba, of sabotaging and frustrating their campaign to restore and reclaim destroyed wetlands in the district.
On Thursday, Rakai district environment authorities had issued their last ultimatum beyond which a forceful eviction would be carried out to remove an estimated 15,000 residents encroaching on a number of wetlands in the district. Some of the encroached wetlands include Sango Bay, Lake Kijanebarora, Lake Kacheera, and River Bukoola among others.
The forceful eviction was meant to give way for reclamation of destroyed wetlands in the district starting with the 70km long River Bukoola.
But Paul Mafabi, the Commissioner in charge of Wetland Management in the Ministry of Water and Environment, and Jamil Kiyingi, the Rakai district Environment Officer say politicians in the area have blocked the forceful eviction of encroachers pending more sensitizations.
Kiyingi claims that although they have issued eviction notices for encroachers to leave River Bukoola banks, Rakai leaders including Vincent Ssemakula, the former LC5 Chairperson and Maria Mutagamba, who is also the Rakai Woman MP, have frustrated their efforts.
According to Kiyingi, an estimated 90% of River Bukoola is on the verge of depletion after encroachers destroyed its banks.
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Mafabi was on Thursday shocked to find sizeable acres of River Bukoola banks destroyed by Kampala City businessman, Drake Lubega, who has an Ostrich Farm at Kasoga village in Kakuuto Sub County. Mafabi says Lubega has breached the Environment Act which demands that farmers should not cultivate within 200 metres of the river banks.
Mafabi says since the deadline has passed, they are going to send Environment Protection Force from Kampala to help with the eviction of encroachers.
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Mafabi adds that there is no compensation package for the encroachers because they illegally occupied restricted and protected wetlands.
Frank Murangi, a resident of Kakuuto accuses Minister Mutagamba of constructing her residence at Gamba village in Kakuuto Sub County, in a wetland. Murangi explains that the decision by Mutagamba to construct in a wetland yet she is supposed to protect the wetland, has set a bad example.
Both Minister Mutagamba and Vincent Ssemakula have not commented on the matter. Ssemakula did not pick calls while Mutagamba was reportedly in a meeting.
But businessman Drake Lubega denied the allegations. He told URN that he got permission from NEMA to put up his ostrich farm and that he is practicing Eco-tourism in the area.
Environmentalists claim that in the last 15 years, Uganda has lost an estimated 160,000 hectares of wetlands to encroachers.