23 August 2018

Uganda: Jinja Losing Wetlands to Investors

Jinja — Some private developers are claiming wetlands in Jinja Municipality and are putting up illegal structures.

Jinja Town is situated at the source of the world's longest river, the Nile river. It is one of the towns surrounding Lake Victoria.

Jinja leaders are worried that most of the wetlands that protect the lake are being encroached on by some private developers, who are constructing factories in the wetlands.

Jinja Municipality has three demarcated wetlands that include Kirinya, Walukuba and Walukuba Masese - all of which have been encroached on.

Intervention measure

Mr Peter Ken Locap, the Jinja Resident District Commissioner, has now ordered the cancellation of all land titles issued in wetlands as an intervention measure.

He says almost all factories within Jinja Municipality have put up structures in wetlands despite warning from the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

"Many of these factories claim to possess certificates from Nema but most of them have breached the terms issued by Nema. Others are discharging their waste directly into the lake [Victoria], congesting its water flow," Mr Locap told Daily Monitor yesterday.

Recently, a group of councillors in Jinja Municipality, led by the chairperson of the committee on environment, Mr Benard Mbayo, petitioned Parliament's Natural Resource Committee accusing 13 factories in Jinja Town of encroaching on wetlands.

Some of the implicated factories include Sun Belt textile limited, S.W.T Tannery, M.M.I Integrated Steel Mills Uganda Ltd, Skyfat Tannery Ltd, and V.G Keswala and Sons Ltd.

Others include Kyabazinga Industries Ltd, Red Stome Industries, Leather Industry of Uganda, Buwembo Distillers and Nilus Group Ltd, a tobacco processing company.

When contacted for a comment on the matter, Mr Nelson Agaba, the operations manager of Leather Industry of Uganda Ltd, said his company was cleared by Nema and was issued a permit.

He said most factories are located in wetlands because water from the National Water and Sewage Cooperation is very expensive yet their factories heavily rely on water.

The encroachment

Skyfat Tannery Company Ltd, a hides and skin factory on Nyanza Road on the shores of Lake Victoria, is reportedly carrying out its extension works into Kirinya Wetland.

Mr Julius Kiirya, a resident of Loco Village where the wetland is located, recounts one particular night when he allegedly saw trucks emptying soil into the wetland, with army officers standing guard.

Mr Boniface Wadenga, the Loco Village chairperson, says the company has encroached on Kirinya wetland by approximately one acre, something he says is likely to erode the lake.

Asked why his company is constructing a permanent building in a wetland contrary to what Nema approved, Mr Su Xiaolin, the managing director of Skyfat Tannery Ltd, said the ongoing construction was approved by Nema in 2017.

Nema spokesperson, Ms Naomi Karekaho, said: "It is true Skyfat was cleared to construct an effluent plant but if what they are doing is to the contrary, the law will take its course."

The Jinja Central Division speaker, Mr Zein Abdallah, said wetland encroachers risk having their developments demolished.

The Jinja Central Division chairperson, Mr Mubaraka Kirunda, accused "big people" in government of being behind the encroachment.

The Jinja Municipality speaker, Mr Moses Bizutu, urged Nema to intervene in case factories are not complying with their regulations.

The Jinja Central Division environment officer, Ms Vicky Kakaire, vowed to carry out inspection on the wetlands and come up with a comprehensive report on the matter.

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