Uganda: NEMA Tightens Noose Around 'Investors' Mining Sand in Lwera Wetland

20 September 2023
Nile Post News (Kampala)

Environmental body NEMA has in a move to save the swamp along Masaka highway has announced no permit for investors involved in mining sand in Lwera wetland.

"No one mining sand in Lwera is going to see their permit renewed. For now, there are still only two companies whose permits haven't expired but the rest expired and we are to chase them away soon since they are mining sand illegally," NEMA Executive Director, Dr. Akankwasa Barirega said on Tuesday in Kalungu district.

Lwera swamp is a major water catchment area connecting rivers, wetlands and other water sources in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts before draining into Lake Victoria.

Several members of the public have always raised concern over sand mining and other activities including rice growing in Lwera that have seen several water ways in the swamp blocked leading to flooding.

However, the concerns by members of the public have on several occasions went unanswered since the sand mining activities are carried by companies owned by wealthy businessmen and Chinese with so much influence in government.

Many of those involved in sand mining in the vast swamp have been stopped by parliament and other responsible agencies but they have always resumed the mining activities as soon as enforcement teams leave.

It is also said that in many cases, money exchanges hands to ensure the investors mining sand in the swamp are not touched.

Many have always heaped the blame on NEMA for failing in its duty to protect the environment by allowing sand mining activities to go on.

However, according to the NEMA Executive Director, it will not be business as usual and all licences for sand mining in Lwera will not be renewed whereas new ones will not be issued.

Rice growing

Dr.Akankwasa also commented on rice growing in Lwera that he said there are technicalities that need to be rectified.

"We have some issues we need to discuss with the leadership of Kalungu district since those growing rice got land titles in the swamps but we want to see what to do with those titles. We have to save our wetlands or else what happened in Libya(floods) might befall us soon," he said.

"If a country which is a desert like Libya gets floods, what will happen to countries surrounded by lakes like Uganda! We need to protect our wetlands by correcting the mistakes made."

According to the Kalungu Resident District Commissioner, Paddy Kayondo said authorities found out that some people got land titles in wetlands, noting that there has been a challenge evicting them.

"There is need for a deliberate move to explain to our people more about wetlands because many people acquire titles on these pieces of land. The problem was that initially, some of the wetlands were lowlands and people were allowed to get to get titles. It is therefore a challenge to evict them," Kayondo said.

He also noted that in some cases, local authorities in the districts are not made aware of decisions by NEMA officials when they issue permits for use of wetlands.

"The right procedure should have been that those leaders on the ground are consulted before NEMA officers sit in Kampala to issue permits to use wetlands. This makes it difficult for us to enforce presidential directives regarding evicting people from wetlands."

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