5 February 2013

Uganda: Investors Destroying Wetlands - Minister

Failure of investors to comply with environmental laws is largely to blame for the escalation of wetland degradation, environment minister Ephraim Kamuntu has said.

In a press statement to media houses over the weekend, Kamuntu said investors have gone on rampage, destroying wetlands across the country despite warnings from the Government and other concerned institutions.

He also faulted the justice system for disregarding environmental laws which they are supposed to enforce.

"There are several incidences where culprits have been set free by the courts of law or the Police, or given non punitive punishments," Kamuntu said.

He noted that issuing leases and titles in wetlands contravenes the Constitution, environment laws and the Land Act.

The minister, however, observed that many of the non-complaint investors acquired leases prior to the Wetlands Policy (1995), Constitution (1995), Land Act (1998) and the National Environment Act (1995), making their eviction hard.

He called for the gazetting of wetlands, increased awareness campaigns and the enforcement of relevant laws to curb degradation.

To do this, he said, his ministry needs more funding to recruit more staff and facilitate environment inspectors to monitor and supervise investment projects.

Kamuntu's comments came as Uganda commemorated the world environments day on Saturday.

The day is celebrated internationally to create awareness about the significance of wetlands and the benefits they provide to the environment such as the purification of water.

"Without wetlands we cannot have water and without water we cannot have life and without life creation will cease to exist," he warned.

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