By Innocent Atuganyira
MASINDI: Authorities in Masindi have given a gross period of one week to all wetland encroachers in the district to vacate or face arrest.
The warning was sounded on Tuesday during the stakeholder’s meeting held at the Resident District Commissioner’s Gardens in Masindi Town.
The Masindi District Environmental Officer Mrs Olivia Nabukenya said they are implementing the Presidential directive since most wetlands have been encroached.
She however said that since they carried out public sensitization, most people are vacating the wetlands though some have kept a deaf ear adding that the level of degradation is alarming.
According to Nabukenya, the district will start implementing the presidential directive next Monday 14th November.
”Those growing crops like rice, beans and others will be spared for this season but trees planted in the wetlands won’t be spared,” she disclosed.
The Deputy Resident District Commissioner Masindi Dhaala Sanon said those who fail to comply with the presidential directive will be arrested and taken to courts of law.
”We have given them a gross period of one week, and those who will not comply with the presidential directive will be arrested and taken to courts of law,” he said.
Dhaala said that most wetlands in the country have been degraded and Masindi is one of the affected districts adding that they have a big task ahead of restoring the degraded wetlands.
”If the environment is not protected and causes climatic change, we should implement the presidential directive to ensure the environment is restored,” he added.
The Albertine Region Liaison Officer Environmental Police Protection Unity/ NEMA Inspector of Police Joseph Onguti told the members to avoid being influenced by the politicians if they are to implement the presidential directive.
”The rate at which wetlands have been degranded in Bunyoro can’t be compared to other areas, Bunyoro is quite well-off. If we are to implement the presidential directive, we should avoid being used by the politicians,” he said.
In June this year, President Museveni ordered all encroachers out of wetlands across the country with immediate effect.
According to Museveni, there should be no negotiations with encroachers, who have deliberately invaded wetlands and settled there.
The President, however, said there are people who were forced into wetlands by the colonial government, adding that these groups will be compensated, but those who willfully settled in and conducted illegal activities in wetlands would be kicked out without any compensation.
”But in other areas, people who are going to the wetlands are going by themselves and against our appeals. I demand that all these people get out of the wetlands unconditionally,” he said.
Museveni said they don’t have to negotiate because they knew it was not right but they insisted.
He said Uganda has fertile soils, but that for agriculture to be sustainable even during the dry season, there must be a constant source of water through irrigation. He said if the wetlands are protected from degradation, it will be possible to engage in such irrigation schemes.
“Once we bring back our water because 20 percent of Uganda is under fresh water, then we shall be able to irrigate easily and have secure agriculture and that can give us room to solve other problems,” he said.
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