Residents of Bugolobi are worried of being hit by more floods if Majestic Commodities, a private company, continues to backfill a wetland in the leafy Kampala suburb.
ChimpReports has learned that National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) had in October stopped the civil works in a section of Nakivubo swamp along Mpanga Close in Bugolobi but Majestic Commodities reportedly threatened the government agency with a Shs 500bn legal suit.
Nakivubo wetland forms part of the critical drainage network system of Kampala. This system comprises 8 main watersheds – Nakivubo, Lubigi, Nalukolongo, Kasanga and Mayanja/Kaliddubi.
All these drainage systems follow the natural flow of terrain in the Kampala and Metropolitan Area up to the lowest point of the catchment.
“Bugolobi falls on the lower side of Kampala. We are already facing floods as a result of the construction of Village Mall and Shell Bugolobi on the original drainage,” said Moses Kabango, 47, a resident of Bugolobi.
“The encroachment on the wetland will turn Bugolobi into a disaster,” he added.
The Luthuli-Bandali rise is already a major flooding point because the small diversion drains that were constructed by the two developers ( Village Mall and Shell Bugolobi) are insufficient for the storm- water flow in this area.
According to correspondences seen by ChimpReports, the government first titled the wetland (Bugolobi section) on April 1, 1987 and allocated it to East African Clay Products, then to Nyumba ya Chuma on 15th April, 1989.
The land was a subject of a constitutional petition number 13 or 2010 in which the ownership of the land was confirmed as Uganda Land Commission (ULC).
ULC allocated the said land to Nextel Ltd on March 2, 2010 and then to Majestic Commodities Ltd on October 27, 2010.
Cabinet on the recommendation of the Policy Committee on Environment on June 7 2017 exempted the said land together with the adjacent UBC land from any title cancellation based on the fact that these were titled lands before wetlands were protected by the Constitution in 1995 and for the said land, also the ruling of the Court of Appeal on the matter.
NEMA issued a certificate to Majestic Commodities for development of warehouses on May 25, 2011 under certificate number NEMA/EIA/3730 which was replaced by certificate number NEMA/EIA/14682 for construction of residential houses issued on March 22, 2021 by the former NEMA Executive Director.
The backfilling of the wetland is underway in Bugolobi
However, Joy Ssebugwawo, 55, a resident of Bugolobi, says “a wetland is a wetland. If the government made a mistake of issuing a title for construction works in the wetland, the developer should be compensated with land elsewhere to protect Bugolobi residents from more floods.”
Floods have caused havoc, damaged infrastructure (such as drainage systems, roads and powerlines), devastated people’s homes and industrial properties which has caused serious disruption to traffic flow and economic activities in Kampala.
People living and working in low-lying areas such as Bugolobi are mostly at risk to the impacts of flooding.
Recently, there have been reports of several people dying (in collapsed buildings and drowning in storm-water) due to the floods.
Developments in wetlands
A Parliamentary investigation into Kampala’s endless floods recommended that the government should fast-track the process of canceling all land titles in wetlands.
The Parliament probe observed that developments in wetlands were responsible for the endless floods in Kampala.
For example, Meera Investments backfilled about 75% of Kinawataka swamp, which is a discharge area of the channel, hence reducing the speed of water up stream hence flooding of Jinja Road stretches Meera Investments has a title in this wetland and was given an approval by NEMA around 2010/11.
The owners of Industries in Kyambogo who constructed screens, perimeter walls and permanent structure in Kinawataka channel between 2004-2008 reduced the width of the channel and hence reduced the channel water carrying capacity thus flooding along Jinja road.
In Nalukolongo, factory owners illegally backfilled sections along the channel and constructed permanent structures which reduced the width of the channel and created a backflow upstream which causes flooding in the area.