By Guest Writer
OPINION: In light of the NEMA express penalty scheme, it is imperative that we talk about NEMA’s mission, how it is being carried out in the environmental sphere, and whether she has succeeded in Uganda.
As an environmentalist, I applaud NEMA for the initiative; holding people accountable for careless littering and poor resource management is a step towards restoring our environment, but I can’t ignore the still-open issues where NEMA has fallen short of its obligations to Uganda.
NEMA is supposed to coordinate, monitor, regulate, and oversee environmental management in the nation. Instead, we’ve seen NEMA at the center of aggravating environmental degradation in the country.
To mention but a few, Kinawataka wetland has been openly encroached upon by mushrooming investors under NEMA’s watch, which has resulted in significant flooding around Kireka and Banda.
This wetland is categorized as a public reserve and supposed to be maintained to filter drains from Mbuya, Kireka, and Bugolobi and pour into Victoria.
NEMA awarded permission to rice growing by a Chinese company, Zhong Industries Ltd., in the Lwera wetland and claimed that an environmental impact assessment had been done to justify this activity; however, it should be noted that the Lwera wetland pours water directly into Lake Victoria, and with rice growing come chemicals like fertilizers that would directly affect the eco system within Lake Victoria.
NEMA also gave permits for sand mining in the Lwera wetland and in Lake Victoria, whose open pits have become a habitat for mosquitoes and created a conducive environment for water weeds like hyacinth and Kariba weed, and also certified Hoima sugar plant operations within Bugoma forest that have caused extreme tree depletion.
In addition to the above concerns, there is a question of public damping sites. Ugandans are unaware of the locations of the waste disposal facilities, and no effort has been put in to notify the public of the gazette areas; hence, they toss trash everywhere. It should be noted that 227 dump sites have been identified and mapped in Kampala, but neither the general public nor garbage collection businesses are aware that this is even the case. Visit Walukuba Wetland in Namavundu Village, and you’ll be upset over the company’s used polythene bags that were thrown there. This necessitates immediate action from NEMA and its allies like KCCA to educate Ugandans before holding them accountable so that they will have no defense at all.
In conclusion, NEMA as a government-mandated institution has large loopholes that need to be filled and should be held accountable for its evident shortcoming that have compromised the ecosystem and natural resources of the country. With the above highlights, it is safe to say that Ugandans have lost confidence in NEMA and call on the government to look into NEMA’s operations because the country may be at greater risk of losing than gaining with NEMA as the only body watching over her environment.
The author is Babirye Jemimah Kasibbo, Advocacy Associate, Citizen Concern Africa.
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