KWANIA– About 9,460 hectares of wetlands in Kwania district have been invaded by residents for different activities, according to a recent report.
A recent report released by the Ministry of Water and Environment indicates that out of the estimated 30, 120 hectares of wetlands in Kwania district, only 20,660 hectares are safe.
The report names Chawente, Nambieso, Abongomola, and Atongtidi sub-counties as areas with rampant wetland encroachment.
Leaders say the huge expanses of Kwania wetlands have been degraded by people seeking land for farming. Some sections of the wetlands have been converted into human settlements.
Local experts say wetlands are one of the many natural features that influence 40 percent of rainfall received in Uganda. The encroachment has now exposed residents in Kwania district to adverse climate change effects such as prolonged drought and floods.
Currently, several community members, especially cultivators and cattle keepers have engaged in bitter rows over wetlands.
In Abongomolola Sub-county, residents are up in arms against Joe Olute, a lecturer at All Saints University in Lira, over a wetland they claim he has grabbed for use. However, Olute vehemently denies taking over the wetland.
John Odur, a resident of Abany parish in Abongomola Sub-county says, “There is a lot of insecurity here as a result of a struggle over the wetland. We have nowhere to graze our animals because some people have taken over the wetland for farming. The wetland is owned by the community,” Middy Olal, another resident in the area claimed.
As the saying goes, a man’s strength is determined in times of trouble, Kwania district natural resource officers have taken a move to sensitise the locals to conserve and protect wetlands.
Jimmy Okweny, the district environment officer says the law on how citizens can utilise wetlands is in place.
“The wetland Act 2019 clearly stipulates the regulated activities in wetlands. You are only allowed to graze your animals in wetlands, and collect water for domestic animals. Hunting and fishing are equally allowed. Cultivation, especially growing rice is not allowed,” he said.
Besides sensitisation, Okweny says the district plans to demarcate wetland boundaries to save wetlands from the hands of encroachers.
“We shall ensure that we demarcate wetland boundaries. After the demarcation, we shall make follow up and those who will encroach shall be arrested and prosecuted,” he added.
Denis Amuka, Kwania district lands officer says they have issued an ultimatum of three months for encroachers to evacuate wetlands, warning that those hesitant to leave shall be arrested.
“We have given an ultimatum of three months that will end in November. The encroachers should harvest their crops within this grace period. After that we shall launch an operation to destroy unwanted plantations, arrest and prosecute the encroachers to protect the wetlands,” he said.
Esther Magala, Kwania district forestry officer says, “Have you seen how floods have destroyed several homes and crop gardens in Kwania? Nature speaks, if they fail to listen to nature, nature will come against them,” she told this reporter in an interview.
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