“We Have Not Yet Demolished Stabex Because they Can Sue the Government to Bankruptcy”- NEMA

Posted on June 24, 2024
By Sean Musa Carter
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In a press conference this morning, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) addressed growing public concerns over the nationwide operation to evict encroachers from wetlands. NEMA's Executive Director, Dr. Barirega Akankwasah, provided clarity on the motives behind these actions and addressed accusations of selective enforcement.

Dr. Akankwasah outlined the importance of wetlands, emphasizing their role in environmental sustainability. Wetlands contribute to rainfall formation, biodiversity conservation, water purification, flood control, climate change mitigation, and groundwater recharge. Highlighting the alarming reduction of Uganda’s wetlands from 15.6% in 1994 to 8.9% in 2019, he noted recent restoration efforts have slightly increased this figure to 9.3%.

“We must avoid repeating the mistakes of the developed world that led to the current environmental crisis,” Dr. Akankwasah stated, stressing the need for Uganda to follow a sustainable development path to secure ecological and socio-economic benefits for future generations.

Dr. Akankwasah explained that the current evictions target illegal encroachers, with exceptions only for critical public infrastructure approved after rigorous environmental and social impact assessments. Since September 2021, NEMA has suspended all new development approvals in wetlands.

Evictions are conducted following the issuance of Restoration Orders, giving encroachers 21 days to vacate or appeal. Non-compliance results in forced removal and restoration at the encroacher’s expense, a measure intended to halt further degradation and support wetland recovery.

Addressing the contentious issue of compensation, Dr. Akankwasah clarified that evictees would not receive any financial recompense. “Compensating encroachers would encourage more illegal activities and effectively endorse such behavior,” he stated. Under the National Environment Act, 2019, encroachers must cover restoration costs and face penalties of up to 12 years in jail or fines up to Ushs 600 million.