KABALE – The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on Tuesday charged suspected illegal miners before Kabale Magistrate’s Court.
The suspects including a one Dan Bekunda are accused of degrading River Kiruruma in Kitumba Village, Kabale Municipality in Kabale District contrary to Section 157 (a) (i) of the National Environment Act, No.5, 2019, and Regulation 23 and 29 of the National Environment (Wetland, River banks, and Lake Shores Management) Regulations, 2000.
Bekunda was arrested by a field operations team from NEMA.
He was charged alongside Paul Ahumuza, the operator of the wheel loader, before Kabale Magistrate’s Court.
Other suspects are still at large and are being hunted by NEMA enforcement team, according to the national environment watchman.
Her Worship Racheal Tabaruka has since adjourned the matter to 7th September 2023 for a final ruling following the conclusion of adducing of evidence by the NEMA legal team working with the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution.
Sand mining — mostly for use in the construction industry — is big business, with 50 billion tons used globally each year, the United Nations Environment Programme said in a report last year. It warned that the industry is “largely ungoverned,” leading to erosion, flooding, saltier aquifers, and the collapse of coastal defenses.
Healthy wetlands can help control local climate and flood risk, according to UNEP.
In Uganda, an ongoing construction boom mirrors trends in the wider region. Riverbeds and lake basins — public property — are often the scene of mining operations, although there also are private estates dug up for sand.
Several wetlands around are under threat from sand miners.
NEMA banned dredging within lakes and rivers but permits sand mining in the wetlands.
Companies caught degrading the environment face stiff financial penalties, according to NEMA.