The Bushenyi Greater Environmental Police Liaison Officer, Mr Joseph Sentamu has confirmed the development, saying he has written letters to all LC one chairmen in Bushenyi district where wetland destruction has taken a center stage and could cause danger if not controlled.
This comes following reports that residents including government officials in Bushenyi and neighboring districts had taken advantage of COVID-19 lockdown to encroach on natural resources for agricultural practices. Farmers in the region normally use the June-July dry season to prepare soils for millet growing.
According to Mr Sentamu, working with local councils and crime intelligence links could send a message to the encroachers in a bid to tackle the environmental degradation challenge in the region.
“We have intensified operations to fight against environmental degradation. We have written to LCs reminding them of their role in conserving the wetlands and natural forests. In the letters, we urge them to enforce the Presidential directives on protection of swamps, forests, rivers, lakes, and other areas of responsibility,” he told Countryside Reports
Another aim of writing to the LCs, Mr Sentamu says, is to ask them to ensure that encroachers are stopped and reported to the office of the regional environmental police officer or nearby police posts for serious action.
Some encroachers on wetlands in the region have been arrested and charged in courts of law with carrying out prohibited activities whereas others have cooperated and stopped the habit according to Mr Sentamu.
“We have had some of the encroachers arrested and taken to court for carrying out prohibited activities, but some have proved positive. For example, the Chinese mining in Buhweju forest have cooperated by restoring the pits and planting the trees. We stopped their activities until they complied.” He explains
Efforts to stop wetland and environmental protection in the region have been frustrated by lack of political will among the local leaders, lack of facilitation on the side of technical officers and enforcement bodies like police and swamp land claimants, who insist that they have titles.
These challenges, Mr Senteza says are being tackled one by one even at higher levels since government is committed to conserving the environment.
According to the Ministry of Water and Environment, Wetlands Management Department, wetlands are a source of livelihood to the majority of Ugandans and hence directly contribute to National Development plan, vision 2040 and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. However, wetlands are under a lot of pressure from conversion for industrial development, settlements, agriculture, sand and clay mining. Most of these degrading activities are perceived to be of greater importance than wetland conservation itself.
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