The Ministry of Local Government has instructed all Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), Town Clerks in cities and Municipal Councils to enforce the Presidential Directive on the protection of wetlands that has been issued through the Hon. Minister for Presidency, Babirye Milly Babalanda.
“As you are aware, various correspondences regarding the” enforcement of a presidential directive on protection of wetlands” have been communicated to you from this Ministry and Ministry of Water and Environment as well as other relevant agencies in the recent past,” Mr. Ben Kumumanya, the Permanent Secretary at the Local Government Ministry said in a statement dated 23rd August, 2022.
“The Directive calls upon you to ensure that no approval of any building plan in wetland, swamps or flood plain. In addition, no leasing of any land in a wetland for any activity or use,” Mr. Kumumanya told CAOs and Town Clerks.
The Permanent Secretary also ordered the officials to stop any further cultivation in wetlands.
“Farmers that have crops growing in wetlands should be given chance to harvest their crops but should be sensitized not to undertake any further use of the wetland. You are also instructed not to allow any new constructions in wetlands,” Mr. Kumumanya cautioned CAOs and Town Clerks in a letter copied to the Minister of Local Government, Minister for Presidency, Minister for Environment, Head of Public Service and the Secretary in the Office of the President.
The development comes hot on the heels of Hon. Babalanda’s recent order to all Resident District/City Commissioners (RDCs/RCCs) and their deputies to stop any further cultivation and new construction works in wetlands.
In a July 18th, 2022 letter, Mrs Babalanda reminded Commissioners that President Yoweri Museveni’s 6th February, 2022 directive on protection of wetlands still stands.
“You are asked to write to all Chief Administrative Officers, Town Clerks and Chairpersons of District Land Boards to cease leasing land in wetlands and as well as approving building plans in wetlands with effect from the day you make your communication. This is intended to reduce the cases of encroachment in wetlands,” the Minister told RDCs/RCCs.
“You should stop any further cultivation in wetlands. For the case of Busoga and Bukedi I have written to H.E the President for guidance and I shall share with you his guidance,”she added.
Mrs Babalanda also instructed the Commissioners not to allow any new constructions in wetlands but should not demolish the existing structures that have land titles.
“I’m engaging the Minister of Lands and the Attorney General on this matter which requires legal interpretation.
“Farmers that have crops growing in the wetlands should be given chance to harvest their crops but should be sensitized not to undertake any further use of wetlands. You should not slash people’s crops.”
In February this year, President Museveni directed people to stop encroaching on wetlands, saying it was causing a negative impact on the environment.
The President noted that it was high time people started conserving the swamps and wetlands because they are water catchment areas that are very useful and no one should build or buy such land.
He cautioned that government will not compensate anyone encroaching on swamps/wetlands and their titles will be cancelled.
“No one should build or buy land in the road reserves or wetlands. You will lose your money and we shall NOT compensate anyone. Your titles will be cancelled. Tampering with wetlands is not a good practice for our environment. Even those planting rice in swamps should desist,”Museveni warned.
He advised those growing rice in wetlands to resort to fish farming because such activity helps in conserving nature.
” I will get the time and come to Eastern Uganda to talk about growing rice in swamps. You would rather do fish farming which brings the same amount of money while saving the swamps and using the swamp grass for mulching your gardens.”
In June, President Museveni reechoed his directive by ordering all encroachers out of wetlands across the country with immediate effect.
During the Budget speech at Kololo Independence Grounds on June 14, 2022, the President told legislators and other government officials that there should be no negotiations with encroachers, who have deliberately invaded wetlands and settled there.
Museveni , however, said there are people who were forced into wetlands by the colonial government, adding that these groups will be compensated, but those who willfully settled in and conducted illegal activities in wetlands would be kicked out withought any compensation.
“In our budgeting, there is now something about irrigation. But in future, I would like us to do more for irrigation so that we stabilise agriculture, and there is no shortage of food even if the rain is more erratic,” he said.
Museveni, however, said this cannot be achieved if the encroachment on wetlands and water reservoirs is not stopped.
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