Masaka — Independent Presidential candidate, Mr John Katumba has promised to stop the growing of rice in Lwera Swamp by Chinese farmers.
Mr Katumba said Lwera being a critical wetland, he’s puzzled how foreign farmers acquired the vast piece of land to grow rice, when citizens are forcefully evicted from similar protected areas.
“Before chasing them away, we shall investigate how the Chinese obtained that land. If we find out that they acquired it through proper channels, my government will compensate them but if they acquired it illegally, they will simply be asked to leave,” he said.
Mr Katumba was addressing a rally at Masaka Central Market in Masaka city on Tuesday.
Lwera swamp, which stretches about 20 kilometres along the Kampala-Masaka highway, is a major water catchment area that connects several rivers and wetlands in Gomba, Mpigi and Kalungu districts and drains directly into Lake Victoria.
Several Chinese companies and investors operate rice fields in the wetland and on several occasions, development environmentalists have warned that such activities have a negative impact on the area’s eco-system.
Lwera swamp has in the past decade attracted many companies and individuals who are engaging in sand mining, fishing farming among other agricultural enterprises.
Some claim they own plots of land in the area and that they possess title deeds.
Despite environmentalists warning about a serious ecological disaster as a result destroying the swamp, no effort has been made to avert the looming trouble.
During his countrywide wealth creation tour in Masaka Sub-region last year, President Museveni said he was “uncomfortable” with rice growing in Lwera describing it as kisirani (misfortune).
He ordered the eviction of all encroachers saying wetlands are part of public land which should not be owned by individuals for their selfish interests.
Early this year, Dr Tom Okurut, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority said Lwera wetland system has “some smaller part” which is not a wetland and that is where some human activities like rice growing and sand mining are permitted.
He said as Nema, they are making sure that the unused part of Lwera is protected through routine inspection and restoration on the side of sand mining.
Mr Katumba also promised to fight land grabbing and illegal evictions that have left thousands of Ugandans homeless.
“When I become the president, I promise that landlords will no longer mistreat bibanja holders and illegal eviction of people using security agencies will be no more,” he said.
Mr Katumba also said if he takes the top position in the country, he will also solve the “problem of high taxes” especially on essential commodities like fuel, sugar and agricultural implements.
Mr Katumba earlier campaigned in Kyotera and Rakai districts.