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Rising Water forces Residents out of Namiiro Wetland

ENTEBBE

Over 4,000 people who had settled in Namiiro swamp, are gradually vacating the wetland due to rising water levels which has immersed their houses among other property. Namiiro wetland which is located in Entebbe Municipality, measures approximately 1,000 hectares, part of which has been encroached on by people for settlement, brick-laying, farming among other activities.

Lake Victoria which is the largest water body in Africa, has recorded its highest ever water level of more than 13metre mark. The current rise in Lake Victoria water level started on October 1 last year and had risen from 12.00 metres to 13.32 metres by April 30. According to experts, this is partly caused by degradation of wetlands which used to work as catchment areas for water.

Most of the houses in Namiiro swamp have been abandoned due to rising water levels

Last year, Entebbe municipality leaders vowed never to allow eviction of over 4,000 residents who had settled in Namiiro wetland, Lugonjo-Nakiwogo. Leaders led by the area Member of Parliament (MP) Rose Tumusiime, said they were to petition the minister in charge of water and environment seeking to retract an eviction notice which was issued last year.

This came up, after an eviction notice issued by Collins Oloya the commissioner in charge of wetlands, who also doubled as the environment inspector in the ministry of water and environment. An eviction notice which was issued on November 29, 2018 had given an ultimatum of 21days to all wetland settlers to demolish all structures raised in a wetland.

“Take further notice that this department may recover as a civil debt in court the expenses incurred by it or any other authorised person in the exercise of enforcing this notice and restoring the wetland,” warned in part the letter. However, to date, no eviction has been effected courtesy of the order issued in November 2018.

Meanwhile, in April this year, president Museveni ordered encroachers to vacate lake shores, river banks and wetlands. Much as they’d wish to insist in the name of being the president’s voters, residents who had occupied Namiiro swamp, have found themselves ‘voluntarily’ leaving the wetland due to the rising water levels. “We decided to abandon our houses because we could not withstand the inflow of water from lake Victoria which has destroyed all valuables in our houses,” intimated Bruno Kibuuka.

Rose Tumusiime the Entebbe municipality MP reading an eviction notice last year, which has not been effected to date

He noted that some residents shifted to nearby villages in Lugonjo to start renting. “As we are struggling to get food and other essentials for day-today life, we now have to look for money to pay for rent,” added Kibuuka. Joan Nabulime another resident, reported that electricity had been disconnected by UMEME, an indication that their settlement is no longer recognised by authorities.

Last year, Vincent Kayanja the Entebbe municipality mayor highlighted that part of the wetland was given out for settlement by president Museveni in 2006 before he (mayor) came to office. “Our work as a municipal council was to prepare a lay-out plan for settlements that conform to modern standards since the wetland is within the vicinity of the airport,” remarked Kayanja.

According to a letter seen by this reporter, purported to have been written by Baguma Isoke the then state minister of lands, the land in question was a crown land which became a public land in 1962, and was later earmarked for government projects in 1978 to wit construction of airport staff houses. It stretches from Lugonjo-Nakiwogo to and around the airport.

“The government policy on housing its staff, has since changed and therefore, what the land was originally required for, no longer stands,” read in part minister’s letter which was written in 2006.
The letter which was addressed to Entebbe mayor (by then) Stephen Kabuye, allowed occupants to own the land in question in accordance with Article 237 clause (4) of the constitution.

However, Vincent Kayanja the current mayor, said the letter was not stating any demarcations hence officials in the previous municipality administration “seized an opportunity to encroach on the wetland by selling out plots.”
“They’re over 1000 homesteads with over 4000 people which would cause a social havoc in case they’re all evicted,” noted Kayanja saying municipality leaders are to petition the minister for fresh demarcation of the wetland while reserving those already in settlement.

The same agenda was echoed by Stanley Namayirira and Micheal Mutebi the chairpersons for division B and A respectively in Entebbe municipality.

Wetlands in Uganda

Ministry of Water and Environment statistics show that Uganda has lost more than 30 percent of the wetlands in the last 23 years. This trend indicates the country’s increased risk and vulnerability to natural disasters and other effects of climate change. Section 36 of the National Environment Act provides for the protection of wetlands and prohibits reclamation, erection of illegal structures and empowers authorities to demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or above any wetland.

The Act also empowers local leaders in districts to manage wetlands within their jurisdictions and ensure that their boundaries are clearly demarcated so that even as water levels and wetland vegetation recedes, the communities are clear on where the boundaries are.

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