Uganda News

In Wakiso, sand miners are damaging wetlands they must be stopped.

Alluvial deposition in the Lake Victoria Basin contains sand, which is needed by the construction and industrial industries.

When sand was recognized as a mineral in Uganda, it attracted a large number of investors, but surprise, unlicensed sand miners have taken over our wetlands in Kasanje sub county in Wakiso.

Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the Wakiso district chairwoman, was embroiled in a bitter physical altercation with Chinese sand miners who were employing advanced equipment without the district’s permission three years ago.

A person may not reclaim or drain any wetland, disrupt any wetland by drilling or tunneling in a manner that has or is likely to have an unfavorable effect on the wetland, without the written clearance of the relevant lead agency, according to the National Environment Act 2019.

The rising number of illegal sand miners (wetland encroachers) in Kasanje sub county’s Lugumba-Naggombe Ssazi has put our wetlands, neighboring towns, and highways in jeopardy.

The environmental risk assessment in the encroached wetlands where illicit sand mining is taking place indicates that there is a probability or likelihood of an unfavorable or hazardous outcome or event having effects for human health or the environment.

Because it is the primary agency in Uganda for regulating, monitoring, overseeing, and coordinating all activities linked to the environment, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) should wake up and safeguard our wetlands in Kasanje.

Is it true that the persons doing this are backed up by big government officials, and that NEMA has turned a blind eye or deaf ear to them?
There’s no way an illegal sand mining operation can go on for years without them taking action against the people who are milking our wetlands.

People used to go fishing in some portions of the Kasanje wetlands, but they can no longer do so since illegal sand miners have encroached and ruined the area. Villages are likely to lose shelter, restrooms, road access, recreational opportunities, and land for farming.

Because the grazing and farming ground has already been occupied by sand miners, such illegal operations endanger the lives of people and their animals.

There’s also the risk of silicosis, a lung illness caused by inhaling silicon dioxide. Disease-carrying vectors, such as mosquitoes, thrive in the open pits created by sand mining.

Invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and Kariba weed call them home.

Last year, Uganda was hit by a floating island, which knocked out the electrical grid and had an impact on fishing, water quality and quantity, tourism, and water transportation, among other things.

These floating or drifting islands are the result of unlicensed sand miners drilling or tunneling through wetlands, weakening our wetlands and separating them from the soils, which ended up in Lake Victoria and River Nile waters.

The government invests a significant amount of money in road construction and maintenance, but because these unlicensed sand miners are aware that they are engaging in illegal activity and are on the verge of being evicted, they tend to overload their heavy tracks, causing damage to the roads and thus increasing the cost of road maintenance.

Either we regulate illicit sand miners or we leave them to milk our wetlands and harm our country.

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