Parliament’s committee on environment and natural resources has with immediate effect suspended sand mining activities by three companies in Lwera, along the Kampala-Masaka highway over degradation.
The committee led by its chairperson, Dr. Emmanuel Otala carried out an impromptu visit to assess the situation in the expansive 20 kilometer wetland.
The committee was astonished to find several activities by three sand mining companies including KPL, Seroma Ltd and Double Q in the wetland were illegal, contrary to provisions of NEMA.
“ So much sand has been extracted that now they are scooping underneath the highway. The road is now hanging and soon it will subside and western Uganda will be cut off,” Dr.Otala observed.
He pegged the rampant road damages experienced around Lwera to destructive sand mining activities by the companies.
“UNRA has always carried out repair works on the road and it is partly due to sand mining activities. We need to balance development with conservation. You were given a permit with certain conditions you must meet and if you are in breach the permit will be withdrawn.”
The committee members were astonished when the companies refused to avail copies of their sand mining permits to ascertain whether they are still following the guidelines provided to them as part of clearance to mine sand in Lwera.
The team from parliament found a hard time to access some of the sand mines after one of the companies deliberately poured heaps of soil in the road leading to the mines in a bid to block the legislators.
The MPs however later found their way to the mines.
“By doing that( blocking the road), it means they are guilty since their actions contravene provisions of NEMA. They have caused massive damage to the swamp by extracting so much sand but no restoration has been done. This is going on in total regard of the provisions in their permits,”Dr.Otala said.
“We as parliament we have duty to provide an oversight role to protect environment for our children and upcoming generation.”
The MPs resolved that the three companies be closed until they provide copies of their sand mining permits to ascertain whether they are following the provisions in the permits.
Lwera swamp is a major water catchment area connecting rivers, wetlands and other water sources in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts before draining into Lake Victoria.
Several members of the public have always raised concern over sand mining and other activities including rice growing in Lwera that have seen several water ways in the swamp blocked leading to flooding.
However, the concerns by members of the public have on several occasions went unanswered since the sand mining activities are carried by companies owned by wealthy businessmen and Chinese with so much influence in government.
Sand Mining in Uganda Poses a Serious Threat to the Environment
Environmentalists in Uganda say an important wetland that runs along a highway linking the capital city of Kampala to the southwestern town of Masaka is being harmed by aggressive dredging to extract sand.
The Lwera wetland is a catchment area for several rivers that flow into Lake Victoria, and sand serves as a water purifier. It is home to various terrestrial and aquatic species, and there are concerns that the dredging, which reaches over 12 meters deep, could alter or destroy the habitat of fish that local fisherman rely on for their livelihoods.
The road Kampala-Masaka road could also be at risk for flooding, as the Urban and Infrastructural Development Conference warned on Twitter recently.
There are regulations in place to control sand mining. But the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) doesn’t have much of a budget to fund monitoring officers.
It is believed that NEMA is failing to do its job to protect the environment by allowing companies to destroy the habitats of aquatic and terrestrial species
According to the newspaper Daily Monitor, several government officials from NEMA have been to the site to stop the deep excavations reaching over 12 meters, but their operations were cut short due to lack of financing
Despite Uganda being a signatory to several United Nations multilateral environmental agreements such as the UNCBD for Biodiversity, UNFCCC for Climate Change, UNCCD for Desertification, Ramsar Convention for Wetlands and many more, the government of Uganda has not been able to effectively protect and ensure sustainable use of the environmental resources.