NEMA Justifies Rice Growing, Sand Mining in Lwera Wetland Top story

2107 Views Mpigi, Uganda

In short
NEMA Executive Director Dr Tom Okurut says that although the public may have an ignorance-based bias on the utilisation of wetlands to satisfy man’s needs, it doesn’t make the activities illegal as many presume.

The National Environment Management Authority- NEMA has defended the ongoing rice growing and sand mining activities in Lwera Wetland despite the uproar from area leaders, civil society organizations and the general public.  

A number of people have in recent years questioned the viability of ongoing activities in the wetland which to many is the last line for the protection to Lake Victoria. The wetland crosses through the districts of Mpigi, Gomba and Kalungu.

But NEMA Executive Director Dr Tom Okurut says that although the public may have an ignorance-based bias on the utilisation of wetlands to satisfy man's needs, it doesn't make the activities illegal as many presume. 

Dr Okurut observes that NEMA has carried out several studies on how these activities can commendably be carried out without tampering with the biodiversity of the area. The studies form the basis of the approvals for any such activity.   

In the case of rice growing, Dr Okurut says that they carried out several studies on the topography, tested the soils and carefully made an Environmental Impact Assessment which all proved that the activity could be carried out in the area.  

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His remarks come at the backdrop of an ongoing campaign championed by civil society activists under Citizens Concern Africa to stop activities in Lwera. They have petitioned the president to intervene and stop rice growing carried out on a leased 700-acre piece of land in the Lwera stretch by a Chinese Company, Zhong industries Ltd.

Okurut has however trashed their petition saying that Lwera is not the first wetland where the government has permitted commercial rice-growing citing Doho and Kibimba. He adds that the project has created job opportunities for the area population.

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In the same development, he confirmed that NEMA has since issued five permits to different companies to carry out responsible sand mining as the country desperately need the resource.  

On the contrary, The National Association of Professional Environmentalists-NAPE Executive Director Frank Muramuzi says the activities are likely to cause more harm than good.  

Muramuzi argues that given the fact that Lwera drains directly into Lake Victoria and the use of agro-chemicals like fertilizers, the activities are putting millions of lives at risk. He further questions why current leaders are selfishly exploiting almost every resource without considering the needs of the future.  

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Lwera wetland has for long been utilized by locals as a source of materials for construction, crafts, furniture, and food in addition to grazing cattle among other activities. However, its commercial use leaves a number of questions.

While touring the central region during his conclude tour on wealth creation, President Yoweri Museveni also question the said activities hinting on the possibility of halting them.

Meanwhile, Okurut says the authority has also embarked on supporting research on sand mining and rice growing in different wetlands in Uganda and has so far put up funds to environment students at university.