Mbale wetlands under siege

IUIU Primary School built in a wetland that formerly had fishponds for fisheries department at the Mbale district. Photo by Daudi Nana.

MBALE–Mbale-Despite calls by a section of municipal councillors and technical staff to have people building in wetlands stopped, Mbale wetlands are still under siege and face extinction.

Developers have fraudulently acquired land in the wetlands and started construction of industries, commercial houses, churches and residential houses at the expense of the environment.

Several local investors, religious leaders, businessmen including Charles Wagidoso, Uganda’s former Ambassador to China, have been accused of illegally reclaiming several acres of land in the Wetlands and constructed commercial houses, residential houses, churches and schools.

Reports at the Mbale Municipality indicate that Wagidoso has acquired four acres of land adjacent to Mbale Police barracks along Nashibiso river and has constructed a depot while schools like Oxford and comprehensive secondary schools, Islamic University Primary School, King of Kings Primary School, Latter rain and Living word churches have been singled out as the biggest encroachers of land gazetted as a wetlands in Mbale town.

PML established that it is this area opposite police barracks in industrial division where the schools, churches and a car bond have been constructed is an area where flash floods from Mbale Central Business district drain.

Although the law is clear in protection of Wetlands, the developments are allegedly going on without approval from the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA and the Mbale Municipal Council.

MS Rhoda Nyaribi, the Mbale Municipal Environment Officer, describes the development as very dangerous to the environment and explains that the wetland opposite police barracks which have destroyed has been a habitat for different bird species and a catchment area for flash floods from Mbale Central Business District.

Ms Nyaribi says the development has contaminated water that flows into River Nashibiso, Nabuyonga and Namatala adding that most of the developments are going on without an environmental impact assessment report which is required before such a project can go on in a wetland.

Some of the wetlands that have been encroached upon in Mbale municipality. Daudi Nana

Mr Wagidoso, however, says he has the title for the land which he acquired from Mbale Municipal Council some time back but that it took him long to develop the land and “I also consulted NEMA before starting the construction”.

“And the water channels in the plot was blocked by workers around the area which caused flooding making the area look swampy but when workers re-opened the channel and water is now flowing normally into a nearby stream without any problem,” Wagidoso said.

Mr Nathan Walela who is constructing a residential building said after getting his title, he presented his building plans to the council for approval and that he has already notified NEMA and that he is in the final process of getting approval from NEMA to carry on with his project of turning the area a residential area.



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