Wetland encroachment in Uganda. Courtesy photo
The Controversy on Uganda’s Wetlands.
For a long time, the government of Uganda has trekked a narrative to restore the rapidly depreciating wetland resources from investors and citizenry reclamation through ordering both parties to vacate these water catchment grounds. It was not until last month that the president of Uganda lifted the order only to favour investors who he appealed had been hoodwinked by the colonial government.
This however happened after the government evicted hundreds of settlers in Lubigi wetland and abolished rice growth on an estimated 30-acre in a wetland in Otuke in early July to dissuade farmers from cultivating in catchment areas. Nonetheless regions like Bukedia and Busoga have continued to establish rice and sugarcane plantations which exert pressure on river Mpologoma that flows from Elgon to Kyoga.
To this matter, Uganda lies at the verge of losing more than 60% of its original wetland coverage from 17.5% in the early 1990’s to 8.5% to date due to human activities, some of which have been permitted by NEMA to operate factories and warehouses in gazetted industrial parks located in wetlands for example, Namanve, Luzira, Bweyogerere, etc.
Therefore, much as the government wishes to retain investors in wetlands, these places house a huge number of civilians that comprise the Urban Poor living in low lying parts of urban areas like in Ndeeba, Katwe, Kasokoso, Kosovo etc. Such people have been robbed in the same way as the alleged investors since its envisaged that most of them buy land parcels during dry seasons with limited knowledge on the prevailing flooding conditions.
It is not out of desire that civilians stay in waterlogged places that leave their lives in jeopardy, this has been a result of a magnitude of factors forcing them to degrade the natural environment for survival for instance, poverty, limited sensitization, lack of alternatives and increased land values.
But despite the inhumane conditions that persist in wetland communities characterized by indecent housing, poor sanitation and worsening levels of starvation with no efforts to imbue life, People look at this situation as normal since government has no dimension to resettle them even in situations where elites have condemned the silence on the matter.
While government strategies to evict the urban poor hassling with improper housing in wetlands, it is on the other side cherishing investors ironically by aiding them establish factories in similar places that have exposed wetlands to risks through issuing them certified operational permits. However, climatic havocs will continue to occur, and natives will one day rise to fight against this status quo.
Unless proper rezoning ordinances are established to over-see a dynamic shift in settlement patterns aimed at reducing reclamation of gazetted wetlands as more citizens search for cheap land to establish homes and business centres, the poor urban dwellers living in waterlogged communities will have nowhere to go. “If you evict them, where will they go?”