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Registration of Wetland Occupants Gets Poor Reception

The registration that started late November covers the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, and Rubanda. It comes at the backdrop of complaints on the failure to control developments on the banks of River Rwizi in Mbarara and other major wetlands.
Structures constructed in a wetland that drains into Rwizi river in Mbarara town

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A move by the National environmental Management authority (NEMA) to document all persons occupying wetlands has received a negative response across districts in south-western Uganda.

The registration that started late November covers the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, and Rubanda. It comes at the backdrop of complaints on the failure to control developments on the banks of River Rwizi in Mbarara and other major wetlands.

As a result, there has been an increase in the number of houses, washing bays, sand mining activities, bricklaying and crop production on land that had earlier on been gazetted as wetlands. Environment experts warn that continued degradation of the catchment areas could have dire consequences on the communities.

But residents have boycotted the exercise saying that the NEMA did not explain the purpose of the registration to targeted persons.  They argue that this could be a ploy to evict them.

James Katurebe, a resident of Rwebikona in Kamukuzi division of Mbarara municipality says that the documentation could be intended to render them homeless. 

Medius Kyakunzire, a resident from Ntungamo Sub County who established a farm after clearing part of Rufuha wetland, equally thinks that the registration is suspicious. She suspects that NEMA could be plotting legal action against persons living or working in wetland areas.

However, Jeconious Musingwire, the NEMA focal person for south western Uganda says the registration is aimed at establishing the number of people occupying wetlands, how they acquired the land and the kind of activities taking place in wetlands.

Similarly, Emmanuel Bwengye, the Isingiro district natural resources officer says that documentation is the best to accurately assess the magnitude of damage to wetlands in the country and to work out a conservation strategy.

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Bwengye says that Isingiro district has already embarked on a demarcation of protected areas adding that protection of natural resources is requires combined efforts.

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