Angry residents blocked a team of officials from the Environment Ministry and Mbale district Environment department that visited the area on Monday to kick start the demarcation process. Residents claim that they haven’t fully been sensitized about the importance of the restoration exercise and why they should surrender their land to government.
Government through the Water and Environment Ministry with Financial and Technical support from the Global Climate Fund (GCF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are implementing a project dubbed 'Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems and Associated Catchments in Uganda Project' aimed at restoring wetlands and increasing the resilience of both ecosystems and the communities living close to the wetland areas.
The US$45 Million project is being implemented in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries (MAAIF) and Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA). Found under the Namatale wetland eco-system, Namakole wetland is among those earmarked for restoration. However, the project implementers are facing resistance from the communities, which accuse them of plans to grab their land.
Angry residents blocked a team of officials from the Environment Ministry and Mbale district Environment department that visited the area on Monday to kick start the demarcation process. Residents claim that they haven't fully been sensitized about the importance of the restoration exercise and why they should surrender their land to government.
//Cue in: "Abantu okuva mu lesenyu…
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The officials had a hard time to explain to the residents on the importance of the project. Residents denied their area female councilor chance to address them, accusing her of connivance with the officials to steal their land. Alice Mugide, a resident of Kasanja A in Nakaloke Sub County, says the team only consulted a few people they called owners of the wetlands and left out those who directly benefit from the wetland.
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Isaac Mutumba, another resident wonders if government intends to evict him from his land despite the fact that he has a title.
//Cue in: "Era Kyetubuza…
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Abdulrahman Wandera, another resident says they don't occupy a wetland as government claims, adding that they raised several questions in a meeting last week, which haven't been answered.
He explains that the officials promised to give them answers in their next meeting but they were surprised when they showed up with surveyors to demarcate the land.
Jackson Wagodo, the LC I chairperson Nayonli Zone in Namayonyi Sub county who also owns land in the wetland faulted the officials for involving people who don't own land in the wetland.
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Evelyn Busingye, a programs officer at IUCN said that they had only come to demarcate the boundaries to know where the wetland stops.
She says the Agriculture will come in with a program of alternative livelihood for the affected residents.
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Charles Wakube, the Mbale District Environment Officer, said those fighting the program don't own any piece of land in the wetland.
He said the program will help to boost people's income and minimize on the dangerous activities that destroy the wetlands.
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The 8-year program that started in 2017 and is expected to end in 2025 is aimed at restoring the environment is being implemented in 24 selected districts in Eastern and the Western Uganda where wetland degradation has been severe.
These include Pallisa, Kibuku, Bukedea, Namutumba, Butaleja, Budaka, Tororo, Kaliro, Ngora and Mbale in the Eastern and Kabale Kisoro, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Mitooma, Sheema, Rubirizi and Ntungamo districts in South Western Uganda.
The district has promised to involve police in the demarcation. The program will kick off today with the help of LC I chairpersons.