Environment restoration activities are non segregative

Recently NEMA together with the Wetlands Management department of the Ministry of Water and Environment with support from the Environment Protection Police Unit and the UPDF undertook an exercise to restore the degraded Lubigi wetland.

Following the exercise, sections of the public have insinuated that enforcement for environmental crimes only targets low income earners and that they were not given adequate notice to vacate.

We wish to clarify that our operations target all people who offend the law without discrimination.

For a fact, Government has appealed to illegal settlers in critical ecosystems such as wetlands and forests to vacate voluntarily. This has happened through various channels including sustained campaigns in the media, physical engagements with communities and their political, religious and cultural leaders. HE the President has on several occasions addressed the nation and called upon illegal encroachers on fragile ecosystems to vacate unconditionally in order to save and restore these fragile systems for the benefit of the people.

In specific reference to the recent exercise at Lubigi, following the awareness related engagements, Restoration Orders were issued to the encroachers on 2nd June urging them to comply within 21 days or face the law. For every Restoration Order, there is always a window to seek legal redress before the actual enforcement, should there be merit. It is therefore not true that people were evicted from Lubigi without sufficient notice.

The argument that only the poor are targeted is also absolutely baseless. Among those affected by the enforcement at Lubigi included manufacturing facilities of construction materials, timber processing plants, taxi parks, heavy trucks and earth moving equipment yards, settlements and gardens.

If the current rate of wetland degradation is not tackled immediately, we risk losing wetland cover from the current 8.9% to 1.6% by 2040.

Because of the need to save humanity from environmental catastrophe, NEMA indefinitely suspended the issuance of permission for developments in wetlands. The reason for this was to build government capacity to regulate activities in the quickly diminishing resource. An audit for all previously approved projects will be undertaken to inform the way forward.

NEMA will continue using all legally acceptable methods to ensure that our environment is not degraded and that we utilize our natural resources sustainably.

We call upon all people who have illegally settled or established developments in fragile ecosystems like wetlands, hilly and mountainous areas, forests and wildlife protected areas to vacate voluntarily before enforcement operations extend to them.