RUKUNGIRI! DRDC Ongom arrests five in crackdown on wetland encroachers

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The Rukungiri Deputy Resident District Commissioner (DRDC), Mr. Ahimbisibwe Wilberforce Ongom, and the police carried out an operation to stop the widespread depletion of natural resources in the district yesterday, August 21, 2023, in an effort to carry out the Presidential directive on wetland protection.

Five farmers were arrested as a result of the operation, and they are presently being held at Rukungiri Central Police Station (CPS).

Mack Kyatuhire, John Mwesigye, and Fred Niwagaba are among the suspects, as are other criminals who have not been apprehended.

The wetlands in Nyakinengo and Kigaga parishes in Rukungiri municipality and Nyakagyeme Sub County, respectively, have been invaded and destroyed by the farmers who were arrested.

In order to gain area for the growth of their crops, the encroachers were seen directing water away from the wetlands.

Speaking with our correspondent, DRDC Ongom said that the failure of a gentle approach through community awareness to those invading wetlands forced his office and the police to carry out the operation.

Ongom noted that after the sanctioning of their files, the suspects will be charged in court.

“We have started implementing the presidential directive on people who are encroaching on wetlands. We have arrested several people and they have been handed over to the police”, Ongom said.

Cue in…..DRDC ONGOM………

All those who are now invading wetlands have been advised by DRDC Ongom to halt and leave immediately or risk being arrested.

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Some of the accused, including Mack Kyatuhire, John Mwesigye, and Fred Niwagaba, admitted that they don’t have enough land for farming and must thus intrude into wetlands to find food for their children.

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Rukungiri district is currently faced with massive encroachment and degradation of major wetlands by sand miners and local peasants. The President has on several occasions directed environment and security authorities to take action against such encroachers.

Section 36 of the 1995 National Environment Act, states that no person shall reclaim or drain any wetland; erect, construct, place, alter, extend, remove or demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or over any wetland; disturb any wetland by drilling or tunneling in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland.

It further states that no person shall deposit in, on or under any wetland any substance in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland; destroy damage or disturb any wetland in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on any plant or animal or its habitat.

The Act also empowers districts to manage wetlands within their jurisdictions and ensure that their boundaries are clearly demarcated so that even as water levels and wetland vegetation recede, the communities are clear on where the boundaries lie.