By Wilson Assimwe
Joseph Mwesige, 35, and his colleagues wake up every morning to mine sand from the banks of River Nyamwamba in Kasese town. This is where they earn a living to sustain their families.
However, the activities of Mwesige and his colleagues are putting the lives of over 40,000 people, who directly depend on the river, at risk. The river is now changing its course and the volume of the water is dramatically reducing.
According to a report produced by Kasese district’s natural resources office, most of the sand used for construction in Kasese is being mined from the banks of the river.
This partly accounts for the floods that hit the town in May. A study conducted by WorldWide Fund between May and June 2013, indicates that River Nyamwamba faces the risk of drying up if local authorities do not come up with measures for controlling increasing human activities along the river banks.
River Nyamwamba is the only source of water for people in Kasese town. The report suggested that specific river stretches be identified and trees planted along them to cover the bare riverbed, which has been exposed by illegal sand mining. Requisite safeguard measures need to be implemented and monitored by the municipal council authorities. “The depth of mining may be restricted to 3m/water level and it should be carried out 300 metres away from the riverbed,” the report reads.
It also suggests that an annual replenishment study should be conducted and in case “the replenishment is low the mining activity /production levels shall accordingly be decreased orstopped.”
The bridge that connects Nyakasanga to Rukooki along the Kasese-Fort Portal highway is also at risk of collapsing as it has been weakened by the people mining sand under it. The sand is mined on the stretch of the river from Nyakasanga to Kanyangaya parishes in Nyamwamba municipality, almost five kilometres of the river, according to Godfrey Kabyanga, the Kasese municipality mayor. “They are doing it illegally, but we have instructed our law enforcers to keep patrolling the area because we know the part of the river where sand is mined, so we shall arrest them,” he said.