Warning: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /usr/www/users/urnnet/a/story.php on line 43
Politicians Back Encroachers as Wetlands Continue to Disappear :: Uganda Radionetwork
Breaking

Politicians Back Encroachers as Wetlands Continue to Disappear

Available statistics show that wetland coverage in Uganda has dropped from 37,346.3 Sq. Km in 1994 (15.5 percent) to 21,526.3 Sq.Km which is an 8.9 percent decrease. There is also a projection indicating that if the destruction trends are not checked, Uganda will be left with only 1.6 percent of wetlands cover by 2040.
UNRA reopening some of the roads flooded by a swamp along River Mayanja

Audio 4



With increasing flooding being experienced across the country, change in seasons and prolonged droughts, Ugandans are slowly being forced to pay for their destruction of the environment and coming face to face with climate change.

Unfortunately, information obtained from the environment and natural resources officers mainly in the western and central parts of the country indicates that efforts to remedy the situation have been stifled by political interference.

Evas Asiimwe, the Kabale Senior Environment officer, says wetlands and swamps top the list of the most vulnerable ecosystems which continue to disappear in her district and neighboring areas.

Asiimwe says their efforts to conserve and restore wetlands are in vain as violators have always been protected by politicians playing cheap politics to please the encroachers in the name of development and job creation.

//Cue in; “Political people are…

Cue out…in whatever case.”//

Asiimwe points out that although Kabale districts had laid strategies to conserve and restore the encroached banks and catchment area of River Kiruruma, politicians in the area backed encroachers telling them not to vacate.  

Emmanuel Bwenje, Isingiro District Natural Resources Officer says most of the people encroaching on wetlands on a large scale have the backing of big shots with some using law enforcement officers like police and the army to guard the encroached areas.

//Cue in; “Depending on how…

Cue out…their illegal activities.”//

A similar experience is cited in the destruction of Lwera wetland Antonio Kalyango, the Executive Director, Biodiversity Conservation Foundation - BCF says, despite resistance from the locals who had not tempered with the site for years save those growing simple sweet potatoes and crying out some fishing.

Kalyango says in a short time local politicians led by a someone who later became a cabinet minister, championed large-scale rice growing and sand mining in the area.

“This happened at the time when leaders in Masaka, Gomba, Mpigi, Butambala, and Kalungu districts pledged to conserve eco-system and its catchment area, but now the Lwera and Nabugabo eco-systems will soon disappear,” Kalyango adds.

In Wakiso district the situation is worse as the wetland coverage has reportedly dwindled from 11 percent to seven percent in the past six years with the biggest chunk of these natural systems being annexed by factories, sand mining, real estate developments among other developments.

In a recent interview, Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the Wakiso LCV Chairperson pointed out that their district being metropolitan, it’s mainly bigwigs in the central government that are backing encroachers.

“Locally we all agree that people should have vacated the wetland by yesterday, but there is no political will in the central government to enforce this as we fight people off the wetlands while some powers that be backing their operations,” Bwanika says.  "Who is fooling who then?"

Richard Lumu, a resident of Namuyumba, accuses authorities both political and technocrats of applying environmental laws selectively. He says that many times local community members are targeted while big chunks of wetlands are allocated to loaded people and foreigners. 

//Cue in; “Poor peasants…

Cue out…fair treatment.”//

Besides the political interference, environment officers also decry limited funding and uncoordinated enforcement by lead agents as other challenges to their efforts. Stella Nalumansi, Nansana municipal environment officer, says that encroachers usually explore these weaknesses in the enforcement to encroach on wetlands.

“It has been said that there is weak enforcement," says Nalumansi. "This arises from the untimely release of adequate funds. The encroachers in urban areas act fast. We always get enforcement funds when they have already caused damage to the wetlands.” 



Available statistics show that wetland coverage in Uganda has dropped from 37,346.3 Sq. Km in 1994 (15.5 percent) to 21,526.3 Sq.Km which is an 8.9 percent decrease. There is also a projection indicating that if the destruction trends are not checked, Uganda will be left with only 1.6 percent of wetlands cover by 2040.

    

To arrest the situation, the cabinet issued a directive stopping the issuance of new permits to wetlands as one of the ways to reduce pressure on these ecosystems, build the government's capacity to regulate activities in these areas, and help in the restoration programmes.

Tony Achidria, National Environment Management Authority-NEMA spokesperson, says that despite the said directive, many developers continue to attack wetlands with impunity. Achidria adds that many people seek permits from NEMA and fail to comply with the conditions given.

Achidria says that NEMA together with the local environment and natural resources officers are trying their level best to save wetlands in a countrywide programme intended to review and audit the use of wetlands and also engage communities before enforcement is carried out.

 //Cue in; “Before doing an…

Cue out…they can adopt.”//

Conversely, the Ministry of Water and Environment is implementing an integrated wetland restoration project titled “Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems and Associated Catchments in Uganda.”

According to reports seen by our reporter, the National Wetlands Restoration Programme has a target of raising funding of at least US$200 million to undertake a countrywide restoration of degraded wetlands over 15 to 20 years with restoration of one hectare costing 1.45 million shillings

#################