Lukwago says NEMA evictions 'selective and illegal'

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Lukwago says NEMA evictions 'selective and illegal'
Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has called out NEMA led by its head Akankwasa Barirega for selective evictions

Kampala Lord Major Erias Lukwago has accused the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of unlawful evictions and markings on houses in Bwaise in Kawempe Division.

Lukwago says NEMA's way of enforcing environmental regulations is unlawful since KCCA demarcations in Bwaise show residents are not in a wetland.

The marked concrete stones show the boundary that separates the settlements from the wetland that covers among others St Francis zone and Bwaise III zone in Kawempe Division.

However, residents here are in fear of evictions by NEMA as eviction markings on their houses leave them worried an hopeless.

Hadijah Nakubulwa, a resident whose house is yet to be demolished, has lived in Bwaise for 26 years. She says her property was approved by KCCA with a construction plan.

She claims she's been paying Busuulu to the land board and was yet to get a lease.

Busuulu is the amount payable to the legal land title holder by a kibanja holder as set by the law or as agreed upon between the landlord and the tenant

"When we were buying here, KCCA gave us house plans and told us here where we are is Kampala and Kampala is not in NEMA and it gave us approval and plan to build," she said.

"Now NEMA is saying we are in NEMA yet KCCA confirmed to us that our area is not in a wetland and I also know we are not in NEMA," Nakubulwa said.

Abdulatif Ssekireme, the chairman of St Francis Zone in Bwaise, has lived there for 45 years.

He shows dissatisfaction and claims that there was no prior warning, accusing NEMA of exhibiting selective eviction.

"If they are saying this is a wetland, why are they leaving factories and other big houses of rich people untouched, maybe there is someone in government who wants to steal poor people's land," Ssekireme noted.

Lord Mayor Lukwago was in Bwaise at the weekend to assess the marks and situation of the yet to be evictees.

He said NEMA has no mandate to issue environmental orders without without consulting local councils and KCCA which is responsible for urban planning and management within Kampala.

"NEMA is required first and foremost when they issue a notice or an order of restoration to serve it on that particular person who is affected by that particular order," he said.

"The affected person can raise a petition with the executive director of NEMA, who in turn constitutes a committee to review decision taken to hear because that provision is intended to guarantee a fair hearing that before you take any drastic action or measure, you listen to the affected parties.

Lukwago said there is a need to institute the district environment management committee to initiate environmental restoration orders and educate people about wetland conservation.

The Lord Mayor added that the (NEMA) people who moved around Bwaise marking "X" on people's (less privileged) houses exceeded the limits or boundaries which were put in place by KCCA.

Uganda’s wetland coverage has reduced to 8 percent from 13 percent of the country’s land surface.

The wetland degradation rate stands at over 2 percent annually.

The Environment Protection Force (EPF) at the NEMA is carrying countrywide operations to stop people from encroaching on the wetlands by monitoring, and detection and investigation of environmental crimes to restore all wetlands encroached on.

Last week, NEMA went full blast with evictions and demolitions in Lubigi wetlands that has led to an uproar of the manner in which it was executed.

But speaking to this publication at the weekend, NEMA's Executive Director Akankwasa Barirega said it was necessary to enforce the law to maintain order.

Dr Barirega defended the decision to leave fuel stations, factories and other installations in wetlands during the demolition, saying those were approved before his tenure.

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