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Bugongi town council leaders on the spot for hiring out wetland

Sheema, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Residents of Isingiro ward in Bugongi town council, Sheema district are demanding a refund of their money paid to the town council leadership for hiring a wetland for cultivation.

The more than 1,000 residents argue that in August 2021, they each paid 30,000 Shillings to Bugongi town council and were each given an acre of land for cultivation. The wetland measures 2,672 acres covering Bugongi town council and Bugongi sub-county.

However, the residents say that they were surprised when officials from the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA last week destroyed their gardens accusing them of cultivating in a wetland.

Joseph Kiwanuka, one of the affected residents says that they were assured by the LC3 Bugongi town council Wilson Tugume, that they had agreed with NEMA to allow residents to grow crops for four months.

Alice Kusiima, another resident says she paid 30,000 Shillings to the town council leadership and they gave her a receipt. She now wants her money refunded and compensation for the destroyed gardens.

Francis Baye Yiga, the chairperson LC II Isingiro ward says during sensitization programs, residents were given only four months’ ultimatum to remove their crops from the wetland but unfortunately, the residents were evicted before the months had elapsed.

Tugume said that he agreed to hire out the wetland noting that by the time they hired out the land to residents, it wasn’t yet demarcated. He says that they will hold a meeting with the affected residents over the matter.

Maj Dan Bigirwa Mwangye, whose crops were also destroyed has threatened to sue Bugongi town council leadership and Sheema district for encroaching on his land and destroying his property.

The property destroyed included 2,000 eucalyptus trees, 1,000 pineapples, and barbed wire all valued at six million shillings.

Patrick Boaz Turyatunga, the Sheema District Environment Officer says they are not scared of those intimidations, noting that they are acting on the President’s directive.

At the end of last month, the NEMA and Ministry of Environment moved to restore over 2,000 acres of wetland in the Sheema district.

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