By Christopher Tusiime
Kyenjonjo.National Environment Management Authority – NEMA officials spent the better part of Wednesday cutting down crops in Nyansimbi swamp in Butiiti town council in Kyenjojo district in an effort to save River Muzizi. In 2018, NEMA moved to restore R. Muzizi, which snakes through Kagadi, Kyegegwa, Kibale and Mubende districts.
To achieve their goal, NEMA said they would remove illegal structures, plants and crops from wetlands, close drainage channels and enforce evictions from the river banks and its catchment areas. River Muzizi is so important because part of its catchment hosts the 3.1 Megawatt Sogahi Hydropower Project on River Sohagi. It is also a major water source in the districts where it is found.
For some time now, NEMA in conjunction with Kyenjojo District Environment Office and Kyenjojo Resident District Commissioner – RDC have been issuing eviction notices and sensitizing communities around the river against degradation. However, on Wednesday, the story was different. NEMA officials under heavy police protection slashed plants that majorly included cocoyams and sugar canes.
The Kyenjojo District Environment Officer, Julius Bigabwa, said that last year, they gave residents seven months to vacate the swamp but they didn’t pay heed. Bigabwa says that they had no option other than destroying the crops, some of which seemed to have even been planted in the seven-month period since they were young.
One of the residents Zabibu Kawamara, who had planted cocoyams in the swamp, said he was much aware that what he did was illegal but added that he had no option because he lacked land. He asked NEMA to consider giving them at least three more months to harvest the remaining crops.
Francis Byarugaba, the Nyarugongo LC 1 chairperson also pleaded with the NEMA officials to only cut eucalyptus trees and sugarcanes, which were in the swamp but give chance to those with yams to harvest them, saying that most farmers are facing financial challenges.
Herbert Nabaasa, an official from NEMA, allowed the owners of the yams that were not destroyed to harvest them in the next three months, saying once the deadline passes, it will not be extended.
In July 2018, NEMA also slashed several acres of crops and eucalyptus trees illegally planted in Nombe Wetland in Kyankwanzi sub-county in Kyenjojo district. The crops included maize, cassava, sugarcanes, Irish potatoes, cabbages and tomatoes.
Bigabwa then said that the decision was in line with President Kaguta Museveni’s directive to have wetlands across the country restored.
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