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Wetland encroachers targeting compensation - NEMA

By Andante Okanya, Edward Anyoli, Yvonne Watera

Added 14th June 2018 08:59 AM

Hundreds of people are holding government at ransom, with baseless compensation demands, now subject of court proceedings

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Hundreds of people are holding government at ransom, with baseless compensation demands, now subject of court proceedings

NEMA executive director Dr Tom Okurut. Photo by Kennedy Oryema

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says encroachers on the Kinawataka, Bukasa and Namanve wetlands near Kampala, are targeting compensation from government for multi-billion projects after they obtained land titles.   

According to NEMA executive director Dr Tom Okurut, these wetlands are classified under Category A of the wetland system, which is a full conservation area with no other use, apart from being a filter of waste and playing other ecological functions. 

Kinawataka and Bukasa wetlands are located in Kampala, while Namanve is in Wakiso district. However, these wetlands are grouped under the Namanve-Luzira area. 

Testifying before the land probe commission on Wednesday, Okurut listed the targeted projects as the Kampala-Jinja Expressway project, Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), Bukasa Inland Port project and the Namanve-Kampala Industrial Park power transmission line.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire is the chairperson of the commission which conducts its hearings at the Archives and Records Centre in the city suburb of Nakasero. 

Okurut remarks were prompted by lead counsel Ebert Byenkya, who stated that the commission had received confidential information indicating that speculators acquired land titles in 2014. 

The NEMA boss partly using a PowerPoint presentation for emphasis, said technocrats at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development should explain why titles were issued in wetlands that are gazetted and protected under the law. 

“In my letter addressed to the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development dated March 7, 2017, I gave clarification. What we did was extract a decision of cabinet dated April 16, 2014. In this cabinet sitting, it approved cancellation of land titles acquired unlawfully after 1995,” Okurut stated. 

Byenkya noted that imaginary roads were created on the map but they are physically non-existent.

Okurut agreed and explained that for a title to be created, the lands ministry created a road. He cited Sports Road as one of the fake roads that had been created in the wetlands in Luzira. 

Okurut noted that in 2014, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), legally applied to NEMA to install power transmission lines along the Namanve wetland, all through to the Kampala Industrial Park in Luzira. 

“Under the law, power transmission lines are allowed. They are called dead points. NEMA issued permission in 2015. In my letter addressed to the UETCL managing director dated October 17, 2017, I told him that wetlands cannot be alienated, and that the titles issued in 2014, are void ab initio (invalid),” Okurut explained. 

He stated that hundreds of people are holding government at ransom, with baseless compensation demands, now subject of court proceedings. 

“There are 1300 litigants who sued NEMA, demanding compensation before they leave the wetlands,” he said.

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