Authorities in the Mityana district have arrested 16 people in Mityana municipality over continued encroachment on Nakatongoli Wetland.
During operations on Monday, the team discovered that the suspects had established gardens, while others had constructed permanent structures, in total disregard of earlier warnings issued by the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) and district natural resource office.
Mr. Africano Ahalikundira, the Mityana Resident District Commissioner (RDC), who led the operation said the suspected would be arraigned in court soon for violating section 36 of the National Environment Act.
Many wetlands in the district have been destroyed, but this time there is more focus on the Nakatongoli wetland which is a major source of water for the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC).
It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect the wetland including the community, and leaders at all levels because climate change affects everyone.
According to Mr. Yasin Bbira, the Mityana Natural resource officer, they put stones and pillars around Nakatongoli wetland but the suspects still entered the demarcated area.
The wetland encroachers had stubbornly degraded about 20 percent of the wetlands in the district.
Wetland degradation has devastated the potential for storing water and filtering pollutants. This has caused nature calamities such as floods, and pollution of water bodies on Lake Wamala, Lake Kyoga, and Lake Victoria which have declining fish stocks.
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 recede, the communities are clear on where the boundaries lie.
Although Uganda has tried to score in the restoration of particular Wildlife that had become extinct, efforts to restore some of the most depleted natural resources including forests, and water catchment areas among others natural resources have remained slow.
For example, Lake Victoria water levels have continued to oscillate above the long-term average of 1, of 134.37 meters above average sea level since 2013 while the wetland coverage reduced from 15.5 percent in 1994 to about 13 percent today. However, out of the remaining wetlands in Uganda, only 8.9 percent are still intact while 4.1 percent are degraded.
Recently, President Museveni directed district leaders to persuade all wetland and forest encroachers to voluntarily vacate before the government uses force to flush them out.