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NEMA attributes wetland destruction to lack of enforcement

Wetland encroachers in Kakumiro district. File Photo

Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The failure by the government to establish an autonomous environment protection force has been blamed for the continued destruction of wetlands in the county.

Arnold Waiswa Ayazika, the Director for Environment Management and Compliance at NEMA argues that the failure by the government to fully operationalize the National Environment Management Act, 2019, which establishes a specialized enforcement task force is a serious impediment to their operations.

Ayazika made the remarks on Wednesday in response to criticism by Dr. Abed Bwanika, the Member of Parliament for Kimanya-Kabonera division in Masaka city, who accused NEMA of failing to curtail habits of environmental destruction in the country.

Bwanika who was speaking at the National Celebrations of the World Wetlands Day which was held at Gayaza playground in Masaka lashed out at NEMA for its failure to execute its mandate despite the grave consequences the country is already witnessing due to the rampant destruction of wetlands.

According to the 2015 and 2019 wetland status report at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda’s wetland coverage has drastically declined from 13 percent in 1994 to 8.9 percent in 2019.

The report which was generated through a national mapping exercise established that the Eastern region ranks highest in wetland destruction standing at 46 percent, followed by the Western region with 29 percent, the central region with 28%, and the Northern region ranking last with 21%.

Dr. Bwanika indicates that although it calls for everybody’s efforts to avert the trend of wetland destruction, NEMA as the principal agency has betrayed Ugandans by failing on its responsibilities.

Bwanika also asked the Minister in Charge of Environment Sam Cheptoris to task NEMA to conduct a national survey of all wetlands and accordingly have them classified according to significance, such that the roles of their protection is properly distributed among the different stakeholders.

Ayazika pleads that as a principal environment protection agency, they also remain incapacitated in the absence of a specialized enforcement force that would then help stop all illegalities. He also challenged the government to avail the funds required to facilitate the institution of the task force.

Sheila Ngatia, the Uganda Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program-UNDP urged the government to commit deliberate investments towards wetland preservation as well ensuring restoration of those that have already been degraded.

The Minister in charge of Water Environment Sam Cheptoris indicated that despite the underlying logistical challenges, the government remains committed to safeguarding the environment, calling upon local governments and police to clamp down all encroachers in their respective jurisdiction.

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