UNRA, NEMA fail on Sand mining in Lwera -Mpigi District. The 20-kilometre stretch of the Lwera wetland extending from Mpigi to Kalungu districts which also acts as the Lake Victoria water catchment area has been heavily degraded by illegal commercial sand mining activities.
One of the Excavator operators John (not real name) is an employee in one of the companies operating in Lwera. John says that the situation has made it difficult for the few licensed companies to continue operating in a stiff market hence registering loses.
He explains that the high rate of corruption by the Uganda National Roads Authority, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Police officials has destroyed business across the wetland due to the connivances with illegally operating companies to evade taxes.
John reveale that Sino-trucks that carrying wet sand don’t pass through the UNRA enforcement weigh bridge. He emphasizes that drivers park in front of the weigh bridge and then walk back to pay UGx:100,000 for each route to UNRA officials and for smaller trucks like Isuzu ELF commonly known as (forward) they pay UGx:10000, not receipted.
He however blames NEMA for the failure in monitoring and acting on illegal sand mining. “Many people do mining without work permit or license. For example Sino-trucks carry wet sand which has increased accidents on Kampala-Masaka highway road, due to the slippery nature of the wetland water drivers get distracted on the road and this has been ignored by the authorities in charge.”
Requests from the licensed companies;
– The companies are asking that NEMA clarifies on the ten (10) companies that work without permits. They allege that NEMA officials have for a long time been conniving with the illegal companies.
– UNRA to clarify and act on those trucks that carry wet sand and those that don’t pass through the weigh bridge.
– Some companies have a license for fishing but they do sand mining something that is controversial to the country governing laws and policies. Therefore they should be brought to book.
– The local people have requested for the intervention of the President since there is known and deeply rooted corruption connivance activities between UNRA, NEMA and Uganda Traffic Police officials of the area with the illegal and not licensed companies. They emphasize that the companies have failed to meet the necessary requirements for safe mining.
Challenges of the registered companies;
– No guideline is followed by NEMA and UNRA enforcement officials from Mpigi District and due to failure to operate in a conducive environment as it had been expected by the registered and licensed companies the wetland is getting degraded creating an environmental time bomb. According to an interview with the Sino-truck driver Benard (not real name); he said they pay a lot of money UGx: 100.000 to UNRA enforcement teams to pass with wet sand without going through the weigh bridge.
It should be noted that due to the degradation of the wetland, heavy seasonal rains lead to overflowing of Lake Victoria. This has affected the neighboring areas too due to the use of highly sophisticated equipment in the process of illegal mining by the not licensed operating firms; these have tampered with the water drainage systems which has led to irreversible effects such submerging of part of the Kampala-Masaka highway and destruction of the vegetation like it has been before.
On October 20, 2021 during a fact-finding mission to ascertain impacts on the environment and compliance of regulated activities in the Lwera area by a team from NEMA led by the permanent secretary in the ministry of water and environment, Alfred Okot the environment police arrested three people for allegedly defying the government order to halt illegal sand mining in Lwera swamp in Kalungu district and operating without a license.
It is said that a technical team had been constituted to ascertain the allegations and find a lasting solution however this has not come to pass.