The State Minister for Water and Environment, Beatrice Atim Anywar, on Tuesday came under criticism from Members of Parliament for losing her passion in the fight against environmental degradation.
It followed a heated debate during the plenary sitting following the report of the Committee on Climate Change that related to a motion for a resolution of Parliament urging the government to address climate change in the country.
In April 2007, Anywar, the then Kitgum District Woman MP under the opposition Forum for Democratic Change-FDC, planned a violent protest against President Yoweri Museveni’s giveaway of 7,100 hectares of 300 square kilometres of Mabira Forest in present-day Buikwe District to the Mehta Group of Companies for the expansion of sugarcane plantation.
The protest by Anywar, alongside then Makindye West Member of Parliament Hussein Kyanjo, resulted in the deaths of three people when the crusaders clashed with law enforcement officers. Consequently, the two MPs were arrested.
Her firm resolve in fighting against environmental injustice earned her the nickname, “Mama Mabira. She was also one of eight Ugandan women honoured by the US Mission in Uganda as courageous leaders in the media, health, peace and security, justice, education, economic empowerment, and the environment.
Anywar later defected to the National Resistance Movement-NRM party.
Anywar accused Gorreti Namugga, the Mawogola County Member of Parliament in Ssembabule District, of sleeping on her job while the country loses forests and wetlands under the watch of her Ministry.
Anywar for failing to maintain her credentials developed while in opposition to combat rampant environmental injustices.
But Anywar blamed the rampant level of environmental degradation on corruption, adding that last month, the Cabinet passed a 10-year environmental restoration programme such as evacuating people who have settled on wetlands, cancellation of land titles in wetlands, and agro-forestry, among others.
In the report, Jacinta Atuto, the Vice Chairperson of the Committee, who doubles as the Kapelebyong District Woman MP, explained that the escalating vice of encroachment on wetlands both in urban and rural areas is a threat to wetland ecosystems in the country.
The committee noted that the improper use of wetlands has resulted in an increase in the release of methane and lowered the water table, which affects the soil capacity to drain excess rainwater, hence resulting in climatic modifications in areas of drained wetlands, increased floods, and intensified the spread of waterborne related diseases.
The Ministry told MPs that efforts were underway to protect the wetlands across the country, including demarcation of over 168.5km of wetland boundaries; restoration of 10,263.4 hectares; and maintenance of over 20,505 hectares as wetland reserves for community livelihood options under the “Building Community Resilient and Wetland Ecosystem project”.