Environmental body, National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has been accused of complacency in its duties.
NEMA, which appeared before Parliament’s Natural Resources committee on October 25, 2016, was pinned for failure to monitor the incessant destruction of wetlands, particularly Lwera wetland which runs through Mpigi and Kalungu districts.
NEMA Executive Director, Dr. Tom Okurut led a team from the authority to respond to concerns by the committee regarding the rampant illegal sand mining activities in the wetland belts. Committee chairman, Alex Byarugaba, also Isingiro South MP, accused NEMA of being negligent in not supervising the illegal sand mining companies, most of whom were conducting the activity without valid permits.
Syda Bbumba, Nakaseke North MP, stated that Lwera wetland has been devastated by the sand miners, yet NEMA has a police unit that could have stopped the companies from destroying the wetland buffer zone.
Thomas Tayebwa, Ruhinda North MP, cited that the companies have used the cover of fish farming to mine sand for commercial gain. Dr. Okurut admitted that the authority has failed on its part to carry out monitoring activities, due to the constraints in human resource.
“We requested Ministry of Public Service to provide 64 personnel to fill some of the gaps but we are still waiting for funds. Only 32 people were approved for appointment but we have not got money,” Okurut told the MPs.
He noted that many companies plying their trade in Lwera wetland are not complying with regulations outlined in their permits.
“We have issued permits as provided in the law and closed some of the companies which violated the regulations. Others have been taken to court. But what is clear from our permitting process is that in spite this, the people we issue permits are not complying with the levels expected of them,” Okurut said.
Last week, NEMA visited some of the condemned sites to assess the situation.
Herbert Ariko, Soroti Municipality MP, wondered whether NEMA verifies the permits given to the companies when they apply for specific permits and do follow up on-site visits.
Dr. Jerome Sebadduka Lugumira from NEMA outlined some of the companies whose permits were cancelled due to non-compliance. They include He Sha Duo Company Limited, Lukaya Sand Dealers Company, Sim Construction Limited, Aqua World Limited and Tesco Industries Limited.
Okurut said the companies were tasked to restore the sand pit areas they excavated while those who failed to comply with regulations had their permits revoked.
He revealed that soon, NEMA will draft new guidelines that will regulate sand mining activities, including how deep excavation of sand can be and which areas will be gazetted for sand mining.