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Luweero Officials to Museveni: We Can't Stop Wetland Degradation :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Luweero Officials to Museveni: We Can't Stop Wetland Degradation

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Namulindwa says government lost the battle against wetland degradation, saying what remains is to help the encroachers to utilize them sustainably without causing more harm. She also asks government to plan for the rising population, which is piling pressure on the available land for cultivation.
Kagoye wetland near Luweero town is among those degraded by encroachers.

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Luweero district authorities have responded to the president's remarks on degraded wetlands because of interference by central government officials. Recently, President, Yoweri Museveni threatened to sack the Chief Administrative Officers, Resident District Commissioners and Police Commanders in Nakaseke and Luweero district for alleged failure to protect wetlands.

He singled out Kabeere, Kagembe, Wabikokoma, Bulega, Lwetunga, Mayanja, Wakasanke, Kalasa, Lukumbi, Walubumba, Kyerezi and Danze wetlands, saying they have been degraded under the watch of the officials. He warned to fire the officials should he return to their districts and find the encroachers on the wetlands. 

The Luweero LC 5 Chairperson, Ronald Ndawula, says although they are equally concerned about the wetland degradation, they can do little to stop encroachment because of interference by Central Government and State House officials.

He explained that despite the fact that the political leaders and technical officers are currently involved in sensitizing residents against encroachment, they are unlikely to evict those already operating there.

According to Ndawula, some of the occupants got user permits from the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA whereas others have godfathers in Central government who block evictions.

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He tasked the president to first tackle the problem of government officers before turning his guns on local government leaders. Abdul Kalemera, the Nyimbwa sub county LC V Councilor threw he weight behind Ndawula, saying most wetlands along Kampala-Gulu highway have been degraded by investors with support from the central government. 

He warned that unless government gets tough on wetland degradation and stops corruption officials, wetland degradation is likely to escalate. Joy Namulindwa, the Chairperson of the Natural Resources and Production Committee, says the district finds itself in an awkward position because it can't evict people with user permits from NEMA and wonders how they acquired them without clearance from the district.

Namulindwa says government lost the battle against wetland degradation, saying what remains is to help the encroachers to utilize them sustainably without causing more harm. She also asks government to plan for the rising population, which is piling pressure on the available land for cultivation.

But Tonny Acidria, the Senior Public Relations Officer NEMA, says some unscrupulous people have acquired fake user permits and Environment Impact Assessments to operate in wetland. He says some of the culprits have been prosecuted. Acidria however noted that some of the settlers acquired user permits after conducting Environment Impact Assessments, which showed that their activities won't affect wetlands.

Acidria asked local leaders to always write to them in case of any queries because districts are mandated to manage and stop encroachments in wetlands. None of the officers threatened with sacking in Luweero district were willing to comment on the president's threats for fear of reprisal.

A team led Teopista Gateese, the Luweero District Natural Resources Officer has already visited 10 out of 13 sub counties sensitizing residents against wetland encroachment, marginal gardening, acquisition of user permits and laws governing the wetland use.

They have also conducted environmental inspection and compliance monitoring visits to wetlands, stone quarries and other natural resources. They have threatened to evict those who will defy orders to stop operating in the wetlands.

In 2016 President, Yoweri Museveni launched an Agricultural Industrial park project in Lubenge wetland amidst protests from environmental activists. The China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park under Kehong Uganda Industrial Development Limited, a private Chinese firm secured a 99-year lease and user permit to use the wetland amidst protests from local leaders because of environmental concerns.

The wetland measures 383.092 hectares and connects Luweero to Nakasongola district. In 2014, Cabinet issued a directive to NEMA and Ministry of Lands to cancel all land titles acquired in wetlands after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution.  However none of tittles has been cancelled in Luweero.