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Police, Wetland Encroachers Clash in Masaka Over Eviction

On Tuesday, environment officers backed by police and inmates raided the affected wetlands and started destroying all the crops therein. The destruction of these crops angered the encroachers who started accusing police of trespass. They claimed they had not been given enough time to allow their crops mature.
Inmates destroying plantations as part of forceful eviction,.

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Police and wetland encroachers have clashed in Masaka over forceful eviction.

 

On Tuesday morning environmental officers resumed forceful eviction of all residents encroaching on Nakayabiba, Kayirikiti and Nabajuzi wetlands.

 

Early this year, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) issued eviction notice to over 100 residents in these areas. NEMA accuses these residents of degrading these wetlands by using them for agricultural purposes.

 

Despite eviction notices, encroachers have at least taken over 50 hectares of wetland land for cultivation. They are planting Coffee, Sweet Potatoes, Yams, and Sugarcanes. Others planted Maize, Beans, Cabbage while others put up fish ponds within Nakayiba wetland without permission from NEMA.  Others established nursery beds.

 

On Tuesday, environment officers backed by police and inmates raided the affected wetlands and started destroying all the crops therein. The destruction of these crops angered the encroachers who started accusing police of trespass. They claimed they had not been given enough time to allow their crops mature.

 

However, Willy Panuha, the Greater Masaka Environment Police commander did not listen to them. He simply ordered his team to completely destroy all the crops. He says the affected encroachers were given several reminders to desist from further encroachment but ignored them.

 

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Pauline Nabadda, the Masaka Municipality Environment Officer says they want to restore the degraded wetland. She says all the affected encroachers were notified not to carry out fresh cultivation but they did not listen.

 

Michael Katende is one of those affected. He says he had prepared sixty thousand coffee seedlings in his destroyed nursery bed. He says he has lost over 5 million shillings.

 

Katende has denied ever receiving a warning letter.

 

Gertrude Nabukenya and six other women had their half acre eucalyptus and coffee nursery bed destroyed. These women simply broke down and started crying after the destruction. Nabukenya says they cried because government had completely destroyed their source of livelihood.

 

Nabukenya says she has been using that space within the wetland near St. Gerald Vocation Secondary school as their source of income. She now says she fears her four children will not go back to school next term because the source of fees has been destroyed.