This newspaper reported on Thursday how government is stuck with 326 land titles located in wetlands. The State minister for Environment, Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu, said the planned cancellation of these titles acquired in wetlands, believed to be in their hundreds, hit a snag when owners of the said titles rushed to court and secured injunctions, meaning that the eviction plans will take longer to be implemented.
Wetlands play a critical role of filtering, retaining and controlling floods as well as influencing rainfall formation. They also act as carbon sinks thereby controlling global warming whose effects we are already experiencing. Uganda has less than 10 per cent of its wetland cover and majority of them have been converted into farms, settlement, road construction and setting up factories.
There is reason, therefore, to worry if the wetlands are not protected.
In 2015, the then Environment minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, announced that Cabinet had approved the cancellation of all titles that were acquired in wetlands after the 1995 Constitution and relevant agencies compiled a list of the said illegal titles.
Last year, the National Environment Management Authority released a list containing at least 600 land titles in Kampala alone that were acquired in wetlands which the agency recommended to Lands ministry for cancellation. For now, this cancellation will not go ahead, because of the court processes.
However, the lingering question is where was government in the first place when encroachers were settling in the wetlands for it to wake up and say they are cancelling hundreds of titles issued in wetlands?
Interestingly, it’s still the government agencies that helped to process the land titles. This is ridiculous! Firefighting, a growing trend cropping up in the government institutions, is not being helpful at all. Government should be proactive to avert situations that may escalate and cost taxpayers money to compensate people who in the first case would never have received money in compensation.
The planning and enforcement of laws and regulations should precede illegal actions to avoid consequences that accompany evicting people at a cost. So, the situation at the government’s hand currently would never have been an issue today.
The issue: Environment.
Our view: Where was government in the first place when encroachers were settling in the wetlands for it to wake up and say they are cancelling hundreds of titles issued in wetlands.