The State Minister for Environmental Affairs in the Ugandan cabinet, Beatrice Atim Anywar has vowed to expunge all big shots illegally occupying wetlands in Uganda.
She made this commitment shortly after reading a statement to commemorate the World Wetland Days which falls on February 2 every year.
Anywar who was appointed to this docket on December 14 2019 denied allegations that the Ministry was practicing double standards by pursuing poor squatters and turning a blind eye to the affluent.
“So many people claim to be untouchable but I believe that in Uganda there is no one who is above the law. Nobody is supposed to be above the law; we need to apply our laws,” she said.
Her ministry, she said was in the midst of strengthening its enforcement efforts by restructuring the security arm.
“I am happy to note that the UPDF has given us a new team which I hope we are going to work with very well. They are waiting for Police to reshuffle the team which has been at the ministry. Some of them have been there for 20 years, some of them think they know too much,” she added.
However, Anywar pointed out that colleagues in the Political class are the real stumbling block.
She elaborated that prior to last Month’s General Elections, the Ministry had planned to evict illegal occupants of wetland areas on the back pedal of the June 2020 floods but were beseeched to drop the plan.
“We thought we would go ahead and put pillars and demarcate them while the floods are still on but I was approached by almost all politicians on the issue of do you want us to lose an election?” Anywar retorted.
“Many people came to my office and said; you rather wait after elections then you can implement that plan of yours. We had even assembled a team ready to go into action and then we got phone calls and then the police was demobilized,” she stated further.
According to the Uganda Wetlands Atlas (Volume Two) of 2016, wetlands cover 11% of the country’s land area. However the same publication states that the wetland cover had drastically declined by 30 percent between 1994 and 2008.
Nevertheless, the same report stipulates that the national area of wetlands increased by a minute 0.03 percent from 26,307 km2 in 2008 to 26,315 km2 in 2014.
State Minister for Finance David Bahati reiterated the Government’s commitment towards environmental protection.
“Yesterday at the cabinet, I heard Hon. Mukitale (Stephen) talking about the tree planting; we passed a facility of 73 Million Dollars to help support the sector and we hope that the Members of Parliament will get involved in the tree planting and other areas,” Bahati quipped.
That aside, he affirmed that there is an ongoing campaign in Kigezi Sub-Region to compensate locals who willingly leave wetland areas.
That team is led by the Hon Stephen Bamwanga. That work is going on and we will be allocating between; 10 to 15 billion to support that effort,” Bahati summed.