MBARARA – Mbarara City Resident commissioner (RCC) Lt Col. James Mwesigye has ordered locals to vacate Rucece wetland.
The wetland found along Mbarara-Kabale road covers Rucece cell in Rwakishakizi Ward, Misyamo, Kibaya, Katukuru and Nyakayojo Division.
The eviction came a few days after President Museveni attacked RDCs and RCCs for failing to restore wetlands in the country.
According to Mwesigye, Museveni is unhappy with how issues concerning environmental protection have been handled in the country
Mwesigye told the media it is not the first time the president has tasked local leaders to apprehend people encroaching on the country’s swamps and wetlands.
During the leadership training induction held in Kyankwanzi in 2017, Museveni signed a memorandum with the leadership of Mbarara to restore R. Rwizi echo system in the district.
Since then, Mwesigye said the eviction plans have been flouted by cheap politics and corruption tendencies in Mbarara.
“Rucece covers a big area but people have put structures, planted eucalyptus trees and gardens and whoever tries to evict them, encroachers pay in bribes. There is a policeman who was given Shs 1.5 million and we shall investigate it,” the RCC said.
He warned wetland encroachers not to sabotage the operations ongoing in the area to restore the echo systems.
“There is no big person when it comes to committing a crime. You can go and report to the president so long as I am doing the right thing. Even if you go to him, he will not listen to you because if there is something that has annoyed the president is the degradation of wetlands,” Mwesigye added.
The RCC gave the encroachers only one month to harvest their crops and peacefully vacate the wetlands.
“We are not requesting. This is a directive. We must restore this wetland [Rucece wetland]. I appeal to those with trees to cut them when it’s early, and those with maize to harvest it by the end of July and if not, we shall help you to remove them,” Mwesigye said.
Leo Tumuhirwe, LC 1 chairperson, embraced the RCC’s plans to restore the degraded wetland in the area.
“Nobody has ever allocated us a wetland, so the RCC empowered us such that we enforce the directive. Locals will eventually appreciate the conservation of the wetland when in the future we receive heavy rains,” he added.
Rtd Rev. Nathan Katabarwa, who has been using the wetland for crop production pledged to quit after harvesting his maize this season.
“We shall abide by your directives and we shall get out of the wetlands,” Katabarwa said.
However, a section of locals appealed to the government to pay residents neighbouring the wetlands so that they guard them but also that sensitisation was needed.
“Leaders don’t sensitize or provide us with any support so that we can continue conserving wetlands,” Robert Kamukama, a resident whose village is close to Rucece wetland, said.
Speaking to theCooperator, the National Environment Management Authority focal person for the South-western region, Jeconious Musingwire, said: “About 50 percent of wetland resources are being squeezed because of agricultural activities, industrial development and urbanization.”
The degraded wetlands in Mbarara are Rucece in Nyakayojo Division, Rubindi, Rushanje, Kibingo, Kashasha, Bujaga, and Kibuba-Kongoro –Nyakaikara.
Uganda Wetlands mapping exercise in 2008 indicated that wetlands had reduced from 15 percent in 1994 to less than 10.8 percent of Uganda’s land area due to pressure from industrial development, settlements, agriculture, clay and sand mining.
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