Uganda: Locals Ask Government to Halt Sand Mining in Lwera

Residents of Kamuwunga Village in Lukaya Town Council, Kalungu District, have said Lwera swamp is facing extinction due to sand mining.

Lwera swamp, which stretches about 20kms on the Kampala-Masaka highway, is a major water catchment area for several rivers and wetlands in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts. It drains into Lake Victoria.

Residents say sand mining has blocked the swamp's drainage channels, leading to stagnation of water that sometimes ends up in their homes.

"Sand miners now use heavy machinery; we have started experiencing floods, which has not been the case. Some sand miners leave huge open pits and trenches, which are dangerous to the environment. If they are not stopped, we are headed for disaster," Mr Ronald Ssemanda, the village chairperson, said on Tuesday.

He said water from the swamp has inundated nearby gardens of sweet potatoes, maize and cassava.

"Residents will suffer famine because their plantations were destroyed by floods," Mr Ssemanda said.

Information on the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) website indicates that 80 per cent of sand mining companies in the Lake Victoria Basin is in Lwera swamp. Nema, however, reveals that Lwera residents have not benefitted from the trade, save for a few casual jobs.

"Kamaliba, a traditional fishing village, which is surrounded by three mining companies, has been ravaged by activities of these miners. The village has lost shelter, toilets, access roads, recreation land and land for cultivation, as some of the developers have expanded their mines beyond the permitted boundaries," the Nema report reads in part.

The report adds that open pits resulting from sand mining are a habitat for disease carrying vectors such as mosquitoes. They are also habitats for invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and Kariba weed. There are about 700 households in Kamuwunga Village and all use one pit-latrine, which has since been submerged.

It is thought that those living in Lwera are there illegally. However, the residents claim they own plots of land there and even possess titles. A couple of years ago, Lukaya Town Council authorities said they were in advanced stages of coming up with a development plan for the area.

Residents also want town council authorities to work on the access roads in the area, which they say are in a poor state, thus making transportation of agricultural goods to markets difficult.

Mr Huzaifa Luwagga, the chief of Magezi-Kizungu Parish, said plans are underway to rehabilitate access roads in the area.

Government efforts

Government in 2018 approved a new mining policy, placing Uganda's sand, murram, granites and stones under the mineral sector, ending centuries of unregulated mining of the said products. Cabinet decided that for one to mine sand, a licence has to be issued by a minister and that should such entity violate the terms in the license, punitive measures will be instituted against such person.

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