KAMPALA. Environmentalists have expressed concern over the increasing rate of wetland encroachment in Entebbe Municipality.
The conservationists allege that Namiiro wetland, the only rich wetland in the municipality, has also been encroached on exposing residents to consequences of environmental degradation besides affecting the aquaculture.
According to Mr Frank Mulamuzi, the executive director of National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Nape), if no steps are taken fish stocks in Lake Victoria will dwindle.
“We all know that wetlands are natural sponges that filter flood water before it enters the lake, the more people settle there the more the lake suffers from siltation and this has had a negative impact on the quality of water and fish stocks,” Mr Mulamuzi said during an interview on Wednesday.
He said the lake is getting contaminated with solid wastes following the degradation of Lutembe and Nadagya wetlands.
Other heavily degraded wetlands in Entebbe include; Mabamba wetland, Nambigirwa wetland which stretches along the newly constructed Entebbe Express Highway.
People have constructed residential houses and business premises while are carrying out farming and quarry activities on the wetlands.
“We are planning an engagement with leaders of Entebbe. We want them tell us what they are really doing in those offices,” he added.
Some of the people who have settled on the wetlands failed to provide documentary evidence such as lease offers and land titles for pieces of land they own in wetlands.
Mr Burukhan Basange Lubogo, the chairperson of the environment committee in Division B, said they are equally concerned as local leaders but their efforts to stop further encroachment on wetlands particularly Namiiro have been failed by some powerful individuals in government.
He, however, declined to name the encroachers. “We have held numerous meetings with those people and asked them to vacate but they have failed to take heed. This time we shall work with National Environment Management Authority (Nema ) to flush them out,’’ Mr Lugobo said.
He said an estimated 15,000 people are currently occupying various wetlands in Entebbe Municipality.
Mr Twaha Kikomeko, a councillor representing Lugonjo and Nakiwogo at the municipality, said people started encroaching on Namiiro Wetland in 2006 by carrying out brick laying and later started constructing houses. “That wetland measures about 1,000 hectares but they have encroached almost a quarter of it. Had we not put demarcations where those people should stop half of the wetland would be encroached on by now, ’’ he said
Mr Vincent DePaul Kayanja, the Entebbe Mayor, said the delay to put mark stones on the boundaries of Namiiro Wetland has contributed to its encroachment.
“As council we recently came up with a demarcation process of planting indigenous trees and no one is supposed to put up structure or carry out farming beyond those trees,’’ Mr Kayanja.
He added: “The environment law will not spare those who are living in wetlands no matter how someone acquired the land. They are not frogs to live in wetlands.”
Ms Naomi Karekaho, the Nema spokesperson, said management of wetlands is decentralised and Entebbe Municipal leaders are answerable. “Please ask Entebbe municipal authorities they have the primary role of protecting those natural resources. As Nema intervene when they need help,” she said.
Wetlands in Uganda
Ministry of Environment statistics show that Uganda has lost more than 30 per cent 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.
The law. 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 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 lie.