In a recent investigation conducted by a local newspaper, it has been revealed that Lwera wetland, situated 20 kilometers from Mpigi to Kalungu district in Central Uganda, is undergoing severe environmental degradation. The degradation is primarily attributed to sand miners and large-scale Chinese rice growers. This once-vibrant ecosystem, crucial for its natural beauty and ecological significance, is now facing threats that have led to environmental and climate disruptions.
One of the main issues identified is the impact of sand mining on the road infrastructure, particularly the Kampala-Masaka highway. Sand miners use powerful dredgers to extract sand from the wetland, compromising the road’s foundation and creating hazardous conditions for travelers. The investigation suggests that high-ranking government officials may be involved in a network of fraud, corruption, and impunity related to these activities.
While the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officially recognizes only three sanctioned operators, the investigation uncovered the presence of several more companies and individuals engaged in activities within the wetland. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the ecological consequences of sand mining and rice cultivation in Lwera wetland.
Furthermore, the encroachment into the wetland not only weakens its resilience but also contributes to climate change-related issues such as flooding. The destruction of wetland cover and natural habitats also negatively impacts tourism in the area.
Experts have emphasized the importance of responsible wetland farming practices and sustainable approaches such as fish farming within wetlands to preserve the ecosystem. However, the situation is complicated by allegations of corruption and influence-peddling involving state officials.
In response to the crisis, some local leaders have expressed frustration with the government’s inadequate efforts to protect the wetland. They allege that influential figures, including Chinese sand miners, have been able to gain protection by bribing government officials.
While some government officials claim their hands are tied due to Nema’s issuance of licenses, environmental consultants and experts have raised questions about the thoroughness of the environmental impact assessments conducted before approving such activities in the wetlands.
Nema has recently taken measures to address the issue by stopping the issuance of new licenses for wetland operations. Existing licenses are not expected to be renewed, and the agency is exploring ways to discontinue the operations of rice growers who have obtained land titles in the wetland.