28 December 2012

Uganda: Wetland Encroachers Almost Kill Police Boss

Environmental police commissioner Taire Idwege on Thursday narrowly survived getting lynched by encroachers of Kyetinda Wetland.

Idwege was saved after shots fired in the air scared away the encroachers who had advanced on him with machetes with the intent to take his life.

"You man, you call yourself strong, now count your days as we show you who we are," the mob shouted.

But Idwege's juniors came to his rescue before the scene could turn bloody.

Kyetinda wetland is the last bit of Lake Victoria and a catchments area for the lake. It filters storm waters and sewage from most parts of Kampala that goes to the lake.

The wetland is also a breeding ground for fish as it is mostly papyrus.

Shortly after surviving death, Idwege said that police had earlier chased away the land illegal land occupants but they remained adamant.

They were being vacated from the lower Mawanga village in Bunga Parish in Makindye municipality.

The principal wetlands officer in the ministry of water and environment said whatever wetland has been degraded will be restored. PHOTO/Agnes Nantambi

"We are here to follow up on an exercise which we undertook four months ago. We came here and got a number of people trying to settle in the middle of the wetland to the proximity of Lake Victoria," said the Police boss.

"We warned them and we have been sending them signals [notices] to vacate and a big number [of them] left but a few insisted to stay.

"So we are here to tell them that we don't want them in the wetland."

He suspected the encroachment was done in preparation for other activities.

"As you see the encroachers had progressively encroached on it. When it dries, they come and put up more settlements, so we shall not continue this to go on," he said.

Ongol Joseph, the principal wetlands officer in the ministry of water and environment, said whatever wetland has been degraded will be restored.

"What we are doing is restoration of the wetland; that's why we are slashing off all 'alien species' that they had planted," he said.

The 'alien species' are: Irish potatoes, matooke (bananas), flowers, Eucalyptus, cassava, yams, and others.

Ongol said such activities are the first processes while converting and degrading wetlands in Kampala.

"They start with agricultural activities and heap the soil. With time, when soil erosion occurs, the drainage channels get filled with soil and later the land is used for other activities, and the wetland ceases [to exist]," he explained.

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