By Ambrose Kweronda
Residents in Rukiga District have expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s program aimed at restoring the Muhanga-Kandago Bulime Wetland System, involving the eviction of locals engaging in activities like bricklaying and cultivation.
The government’s program “Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems, and Associated Catchments in Uganda” is purposed for the Restoration of 250 hectares for the Muhanga – Kandago Bulime Wetland System in Bukinda Sub County and Muhanga Town Council in Rukiga district.
During the program launch on Tuesday in Kabimbiri Kyerero parish, Bukinda Sub County, residents like Bonny Tibategyeza and Milton Tibabyesiga voiced concerns about losing their source of food and income without clear compensation plans from the government.
Gideon Akampulira, the Rukiga District Councilor representing Bukinda Sub County, highlights challenges residents are facing along the implementation of this program such as expecting compensation before eviction, as the land served as collateral for loans, raising concerns about repayment hindrances.
Despite the eviction process for the implementation of this program, residents owning land near the wetland are asked to form groups for compensation, but they say that the imposed charge of UGX100,000 becomes burdensome, risking exclusion.
Mbabazi Robert Kakwerere, the Rukiga District LCV chairperson, urges residents to participate, emphasizing the program’s long-term benefits amidst worries about climate change caused by wetland encroachment.
Emmanuel Ariho, the Rukiga District Environment Officer, assures alternative livelihoods for those affected by the program, emphasizing its positive impact on wetland restoration.
Bruce Amanya, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Wetland Restoration Program, clarifies the government’s role, stating that it encourages voluntary relocation for groups to support farmers, and emphasizes the program’s focus on flood control rather than land acquisition..
From the signed memorandum of Understanding between Rukiga District local government and the Ministry of Water and Environment, the project activities started on the 1st of Jan 2023 and are supposed to be ending on the 30th of December 2023