Govt orders “immediate” ban on construction of factories in wetlands

Government has for the umpteenth time ordered an immediate ban on the construction of factories in wetlands in a move aimed at saving the environment.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Water and Environment, in a bid to restore natural resources and the environment, cabinet has issued express ordered that are to be implemented with immediate effect.

“All encroachers on government forest reserves, lakeshores and riverbanks should be evicted and the affected ecosystem restored. Encroachers are hereby given time to harvest their crops and voluntarily vacate. Those who fail to comply will be evicted,” the statement reads in part.

“Construction of factories in wetlands is hereby banned until further notice whereas all industries are directed to comply with the standards and regulations for the discharge of effluents , air emissions and waste management.”

According to the statement, the decision was moved by the decline in the country’s environment and natural resources sub-sector over the last three decades from 15.6% to 8.4% while the forest cover has reduced from 24% to only 9%.

Government says the trend has made Uganda among the most rapidly deforesting nations in the world.

“Therefore, encroachers in rural wetlands will be mobilized and re-organized to engage in alternative sustainable wetland utilization models. Therefore, growing of rice and other crops in wetlands is banned.”

“Encroachers who illegally grabbed urban wetlands have been asked to vacate voluntarily or be forced out whereas all titles issued illegally in wetlands and forest reserves must be canceled by the Ministry of Lands and the people who issued them prosecuted.”

Cabinet through the new directives also wants boundaries of forest reserves marked afresh and marked whereas the importation of polythene bags into the country is also banned.

Government has also banned the importation of treated utility poles.

Umpteenth time

This is the umpteenth time that government is ordering immediate efforts aimed at restoration of the environment and other natural resources.

Previously, President Museveni in an April, 30, 2020 directive wrote to the Ministry of Water and Environment to effect the eviction of encroachers on wetlands, river banks and government forests with “immediate effect”.

“I am therefore directing you to remove all the people on the wetlands, shoreline, river banks and government forests,”Museveni said in an April, 22 directive.

Museveni in his letter said that responsible government officials who failed on their duty to ask people not to encroach on wetlands, shorelines, river banks and government forests should also be dismissed for failure to do their job.

“You should not only remove the encroachers but should working with local government ensure that muluka( parish) and gombolola( sub-county) chiefs who never took action against the encroachers should be dismissed,” Museveni directed.

There have also been several other directives in the same line but all of them have never borne any fruits.

A number of factories including Abacus Parenteral Drugs Ltd, Tian Tang Group and Global Paper located in the Mbarara industrial park are located in wetlands.

Many others in the Namanve industrial park including Picfare Industries among others are also situated in wetlands .

Whereas government has seemed to have reacted and on many occasions, some evictions have been carried out, many of these have targeted the “small fish” as the “sharks” who include government officials, businessmen and investors are untouched.

Many of them have on the other side continued with construction works in wetlands and razing down of forest reserves simply because they have godfathers in both State House and wider government.

Many of these investors are untouchable despite their continued activities aimed at destroying the environment.

On the other side, politics has also dealt a big blow to efforts to save the environment.

Whereas in some cases there is the will to implement efforts to save the environment, the implementers fear to annoy those involved in the destruction for fear of losing their seats.

Other leaders fear not being elected if they lead efforts to evict encroachers on wetlands and other natural resources.

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