By Steven Enatu
The Soroti District Resident Commissioner (RDC) has given farmers whose crops were planted in wetlands a grace period of three months before they start enforcing the law against them.
Ssalim Komakech made this revelation in a press briefing at his office on Tuesday, 30th August 2022.
Komakech said the grace period is to allow those who had already planted their crops to harvest and leave the swamps. The cases of wetland encroachment are still high in the areas of Arapai, Lale, Ochokchan and some areas of Kamuda Sub County.
“I want to appeal to the public, we know that the President has made a strong appeal that people who have encroached on wetlands be pushed out, we are just implementing that in Teso also and Soroti in particular,” he said.
He warned those planning to establish gardens in the wetland areas to stop as those found in violation of the directive shall be dealt with according to the laws.
For the last two decades, Uganda has lost about 40% of its wetlands, many of them filled in as the country’s rising population looks for new farmland or to create space for industrial expansion, according to the environment ministry.
As floods worsen in Uganda, the country’s leaders are now pushing back, saying protecting such areas is crucial to controlling flooding.
He said wetlands can only be used for lucrative fish farming practice at the periphery but not for settlement and Agriculture.
Last year in November, President Yoweri Museveni insisted that “all encroachers on wetlands must leave” and that former wetland areas should be restored.
Protecting the disappearing natural areas is also key to meeting a global goal to safeguard 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030 to stem losses of biodiversity, curb climate change and protect natural systems that provide clean air and water.
The Local Government Act (1997) devolved the responsibility of wetland management to district authorities with the intention of promoting efficiency. However, local authorities continue to witness most of the encroachments and little, if any, is done regarding wetlands management.