By Frank Lukwago New Vision/ NECJOGHA
Kayabwe, Uganda – The Masaka district Chairman, Jude Mbabali has penned an angry letter lashing out at the National Environment Authority (NEMA) for giving permission to an investor to dump soil in River Katonga which passes through 10 Ugandan districts.
The letter which was headline ‘Shocking Soil Dumping at Katonga Tiver Bridge’ reads as below:
River Katonga is the longest river wholly within Uganda. This river is located at the Katonga bridge on Masaka road just after Kayabwe town. It flows from Lake Wamala in Mubende to Lake Victoria and travels over 100 miles while its western shores empty into Lake George in Kamwenge district. This River drains through a number of districts that include Ibanda, Sembabule, Mpigi, Bukomansimbi, Kalungu, Gomba, Mubende, Kiruhura, Mityana and Butambala along its main course. This magnificent river is also the foundation of the popular Katonga Wildlife Reserve, the home to over 40 species of mammals as well as more than 150 species of birds worthy billions per year in foreign exchange earnings.
I have been shocked this morning (Sunday) while driving to Kampala to see a section of this river near the bridge at Kayabwe filled up with earth to reclaim land for the construction of a factory. This is not in my district and therefore I have no jurisdiction but I felt concerned, stopped, walked around to see exactly what is going on. You can see what I saw in the photos attached hereto. When I asked the policemen I found guarding the site whether they are the ones responsible for this, they answered back that it is a Chinese company and that for them they were just hired to guard the site.
I immediately contacted NEMA and they denied knowledge of this development then contacted Mpigi District authorities, they also denied knowledge of the same.
Where is our country going? Parliament has just passed the NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT ACT, 2019 specifically under section 52(a) to provide for emerging environmental issues including protection of river banks and lake shores from human activities likely to adversely affect the rivers, lakes and the living organisms therein. The Act also created enhanced penalties for offenses relating to vice. But the concerned authorities still don’t want to do their work despite this good law that even offers stringent punishments.
Filling this river with soil has the effect of the changing its course, changing water quality, quantity and flow rates which in turn disturbs the entire river ecosystem and that of lakes Victoria and George where it eventually empties its waters.
On the same day (September 29,2019) when Jude Mbabali published his letter on social media, NEMA promptly released a reply as below:
National Environment Authority has taken note of a write up making rounds on social media regarding the dumping of soil in River Katonga. The write up is purportedly authored by Mr. Jude Mbabali, Chairman Masaka District.
We wish to clarify as follows;
A Chinese company acquired 40 acres of land in Kayabwe district from one Mwebesa and applied to use the land to develop warehousing units. A team of inspectors from NEMA visited the site and discovered that only 6 acres of the land was dry while the rest was not. NEMA issued a user permit and approval to the company restricting activities to only 6 acres of land.
Following an alert from a whistle blower we inspected the premises and discovered that the developer was undertaking activities beyond the agreed 6 acres of dry land. We issued an improvement notice to the developer, instructed them formally to remove the dumped soil and to stop all activities taking place outside the approved area.
A team of inspectors has now visited the site and discovered that the warning and improvement notice was ignored. The company has continued to pursue the use of more than 40 acrea of land encroaching on the wetland.
Given the previous caution, we have now initiated a process to cause punitive actions against the company, including cancellation of the user permit, arrest of the owners, prosecution in courts of law and restoration of the degraded areas at their costs.
We recommend Mr. Mbabali for being vigilant.
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