Effective tomorrow the environment ministry will have 600 police officers to enforce its directives.
Water Lands and Environment Minister, Maria Mutagamba says environment issues have turned into forceful and violent matters which require constant police intervention. She cites the land wrangles at Lubigi wetland, where she was almost beaten by the residents who had illegally occupied the land.
Mutagamba termed land wrangles in the country as a storm that the ministry cannot withstand without a strong police force.
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Minister Mutagamba is today meeting with the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen Kale Kaihura to finalise details of the force including the colour of its uniform.
The environment police unit will start its operations in Kampala and nearby areas. The force includes 450 officers to be stationed at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) offices and 150 others at the National Forestry Authority.
The commanding structure will be at the ministry but would report its operations directly to the Inspector General of Police.
Mutagamba also reveals that the Ministry of Finance has given them a go ahead to set up their own environment courts with lawyers and judges specializing in environment so as to speed up cases.
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The minister also gave the incoming NEMA executive director, Dr. Tom Okurut one month to come up with a strategy to solve the environment challenges, while the staff were given a period of one year to solve them.
Outgoing director, Aryamanya Mugisha noted that his main challenge was enforcing NEMA laws without a police force. This was also worsened by allegations that he was making selective application of the environmental laws.
Aryamanya clarifies that in cases such as Munyonyo, Centenary Park and Garden City whose construction was approved, the environment concerns were covered. These included the storm water route that moves through the Kitante channel, collection of waste, the traffic and the possibility of flooding that if they were to occur, cannot harm any lives.
However, all these conditions were not met by the Nakumat building construction. He also cites Nile Resort Hotel in Jinja located in a protected wetland. Aryamanya says they were concerned about silting of River Nile and the management of sewage and waste.
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Aryamanya further notes that issues such as operationalisation of the environment protection clause and gazetting of wetlands such as Lubigi, Wamala, Kinawataka and Nakivubo need to be handled immediately.
Other urgent issues include the environment regulation of oil and gas due to oil spills, making an institutional review particularly in the oil and gas area and procurement of equipment for the NEMA oil department.