Muhammad Kezaala

Authorities in Jinja have given squatters on the shores of Lake Victoria an ultimatum to vacate by the end of July 2013 or risk forceful eviction. The ultimatum follows the expiry of an earlier ultimatum issued by the environment office in 2010 to the 557 squatters to vacate the lake shores by January 2013 in vain. The squatters are found in areas such as Kikenyi, Masese, Budhumbuli, Walukuba and Kirinya. Last week, Ernest Nabihamba, the Jinja Municipal Environment Officer led a team of officials from his office in an operation to reclaim the lake shores.

They planted several markstones around the boundary of the lake shores. However, the affected residents removed the markstones. Ernest Nabihamba, the Jinja Municipal Environment Officer says that the process to reclaim the lake shores and all protected areas is ongoing. He says that they have notified the affected people to stop carrying out any activities on the land or risk being forced out by the environment police. Nabihamba however, says that they are faced with the challenge of evicting the squatters as some of them have already processed land titles.
But the squatters have vowed not to leave. Some of them argue that they have occupied their land for more than 50 years while others claim that they were given not given sufficient time to vacate the land in question. Patrick Nambogo, a Businessman in Bugembe town council says that he acquired a permit from the National Environment Management Authority –NEMA to use the two acre piece of land that is being reclaimed.

Hamza Wambuzi, the LC I chairperson of Budhumbuli west village has called for more time to sensitize the affected people.  Last week, Ernest Nabihamba, the Jinja Municipal Environment Officer led a team of officials from his office in an operation to reclaim the lake shores.

Wambuzi says that they expect the authorities to allow the residents harvest their crops and compensate them for the development on the land. Bernard Asiimwe, the commissioner of wetlands in the Ministry of Water and Environment says that the Ministry has embarked on the demarcation of wetlands because they are at high risk of extinction.

In February this year, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA evicted more than 1000 squatters and demolished houses on the shores of Lake Nakivale in Isingiro district.

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