Uganda: Locals Defy Agreement, Encroach on Lake Wamala

29 October 2020

Residents around Lake Wamala have continued to encroach on the protected zones disregarding their commitment to vacate the area.

In 2010, the residents signed compliance agreements with the Ministry of Water and Environment not to cultivate in the protected zones.

However, a recent tour around the lake shoreline at Katiko Landing Site in Mityana Municipality and Kanamukwiri Landing Site in Kassanda District, revealed that the locals are still engaging in growing maize, rice and tomatoes in the area.

There is also excessive encroachment at Lusalira, Lubanja, and Gombe landing sites.

Mr Yasin Bbira, the Mityana District Natural Resource Officer, told Daily Monitor that they tried to ward off the encroachers but some have refused to vacate the wetlands.

"It is true the Minister of Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, directed local governments to implement the presidential directive on the cancellation of land titles in wetlands. We would like to implement the directive but the challenge is that most encroachers own Mailo land titles," Mr Bbira said on Tuesday.

He said cancellation of titles may attract compensation which the government has not budgeted for.

"We have now embarked on evictions to stop further encroachment on part of the wetland where cultivators don't have titles," he added.

He said the district no longer approves land titles in wetlands around Lake Wamala and that six applications have been rejected since January.

Mr Dennis Obbo, the spokesperson at Ministry of Lands, said so far, 5,000 titles acquired in various wetlands and forest reserves have been cancelled.

He said some of the forest reserves where land titles have been cancelled include Kajansi Forest Reserve (10 land titles) , Nonve Forest (49 ), Kyewaga Forest Reserve (109 )-all in Wakiso District and Namanve Forest Reserve in Mukono District (21).

" On the issue of Lake Wamala, verification of titles is ongoing and I can assure you that all those illegal titles will be canceled," he said.

Ms Firiida Nabakooza , the chairperson Busimbi Division, said they are sensitising people not to cultivate in buffer zones. "We know the danger we are faced with, it is clear that fish lay their eggs in buffer zones and when destroyed, it affects the fish stock in the lake," she said.

Mr Ali Ssekiwunga, the chairperson of fishermen at Katiko landing Site in Naama Ward Busimbi Division, said ongoing cultivation in the buffer zones has adversely affected fish production in the area.

Issue

Lake Wamala transverses the districts of Mityana, Kassanda and Gomba. It has a total area of 250 square Kilometres and its water levels are estimated to have reduced by 50 per cent over the years due to illegal activities around its shores.

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