Gov’t gives 21-day ultimatum to Entebbe Wetland encroachers

Government has given a 21-day ultimatum to people who encroached on Namiiro wetland in Entebbe municipality, to have vacated the swamp.

Through a letter dated June 8, Tom Okurut the executive director for National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), ordered people who had settled in the swampy area, to demolish all structures that had been raised.

“You are therefore, ordered to comply with the environmental protection improvement orders, and have the wetland restored to its near original state,” read in part the order.

According to Nicholas Magara, the coordinator of wetlands in central region under the Ministry of Water and Environment, residents of Namiiro wetland were served with an Environmental restoration order, after going through all other processes.

“We have carried out due diligence to make sure there’s enough information for encroachers before having them evicted. No compensation shall be given to affected residents, apart from those who may have occupied the area before the NEMA Act of 1995 came into effect,” added Magara.

Namiiro wetland which is located in Entebbe Municipality, measures approximately 1,000 hectares, part of which has been encroached on by over 4,000 people for settlement, brick-laying, farming among other activities.

On November 29, 2018, Collins Oloya the (then) commissioner in charge of wetlands, who also doubled as the environment inspector in the ministry of water and environment issued an eviction notice which was also giving a 21-day ultimatum to people who had settled in Namiiro swamp, to demolish all structures.

“Take further notice that this department may recover as a civil debt in court the expenses incurred by it or any other authorised person in the exercise of enforcing this notice and restoring the wetland,” warned in part the letter. However, to date, no eviction had been effected courtesy of the order issued in November 2018.

Meanwhile, in April this year, president Museveni ordered encroachers to vacate lake shores, river banks and wetlands.

According to a letter seen by this reporter, purported to have been written by Baguma Isoke the then state minister of lands, the land in question was a crown land which became a public land in 1962, and was later earmarked for government projects in 1978 to wit construction of airport staff houses. It stretches from Lugonjo-Nakiwogo to and around the airport.

Wetlands in Uganda

Ministry of Water and Environment statistics show that Uganda has lost more than 30 percent of the wetlands in the last 23 years. This trend indicates the country’s increased risk and vulnerability to natural disasters and other effects of climate change.

Section 36 of the National Environment Act provides for the protection of wetlands and prohibits reclamation, erection of illegal structures and empowers authorities to demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or above any wetland.

The Act also empowers local leaders in districts to manage wetlands within their jurisdictions and ensure that their boundaries are clearly demarcated so that even as water levels and wetland vegetation recedes, the communities are clear on where the boundaries are.

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