Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee has suspended sand mining on a two acre site along Masaka road in Lweera-Kalungu district.
The expansive Lweera wetland on Kampala-Masaka Highway, which stretches about 20 kilometers, is a major water catchment area that connects several rivers and wetlands in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts and drains directly into Lake Victoria.
The parliament committee said it is illegal to have any such activity in a wetland. The said land, that is in dispute, is allegedly owned by a city tycoon Lt.Col (rtd) Robert Ssekidde of Seroma Limited.
Led by the Natural Resources Committee chairman, also Isingiro South MP Alex Byarugaba Bakunda, the parliament team directed Seroma Ltd to stop their activities on the said site immediately.
“We need to know how Seroma acquired a land title in a wetland yet according to the 1995 constitution, a wetland is public land. Secondly, dredging the sand just a few meters towards the highway puts this road, on the brink of soil erosion through constant flooding and degradation,” said Byarugaba.
Seroma Ltd which claims to have acquired a land title from the lands ministry and a mining permit from National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), evicted a number of residents in Kamuwunga village to allow the sand mining activity take place.
Four months back, NEEMA ordered an end to activity in the swamps, but nothing has changed since.
According to the District Environment Officer of Kalungu Richard Vube, there are only three companies legally licensed to carry out mining in this area – Hesahduo, Lukaya sand dealers and Zhongs industries.
“The companies we licensed met our requirements and we do routine inspections to ensure that they adhere to the environmental guidelines. But we are also constrained by a small budget and sometimes unauthorized companies do sand mining without our knowledge,” said Vube.
Committee head Byarugaba said that they were interested in investigating all the companies involved in sand mining activities without clear guidelines and the extent of environmental degradation after receiving a petition that some Chinese and Indigenous companies are operating without permits.
A tough talking Byarugaba said most of the companies use dredgers, which are stationed in the middle of the wetland, scooping sand about 12 meters underneath instead of the recommended three meters which causes soil stripping.
Ronald Ssemanda, the Local Council (LC)1 chairman Kamuwunga village Lukaya Town Council told the parliamentarians that recently, torrential rains caused flooding in the area displacing a number of residents.