The Masaka District Environment and Natural Resources Officers are on the spot for selective enforcement of environmental laws.
The district natural resources officers, backed by the police, are conducting operations in which they have cut down several acres of seasonal crops and plants grown in the different wetlands with the aim of restoring them to mitigate adverse climate change effects.
Farmers in Buwunga sub-county, on the other hand, have lashed out at the enforcement officers, accusing them of favoring small subsistence farmers over other mid-sized business people who also operate from the wetland.
The farmers who had planted tomatoes and cabbages in a wetland in Butenzi parish, Buwunga sub-county, accuse the enforcement officers of concentrating on the soft targets over other bigger gardens of perennial crops in wetlands.
According to Waliggo, the enforcement teams ignored coffee and banana plantations cultivated in swamps and targeted seasonal crop farmers who were even willing to vacate after harvesting their crops. While the farmers are aware of the negative effects of environmental destruction, they demand that the law be evenly enforced if the country is to reverse the adverse effects.
Josephine Nakisekka, who had cultivated in the wetland for sweet potatoes and maize growing, says that in the same sub-county of Buwunga, big chunks of natural forests have been cleared and replaced with pineapple and coffee plantations that have not been tampered with for years.
Some of the depleted forest reserves, according to her, include Mujuzi, Kachura, and Jubiya, which are located in the neighboring Bukakata sub-county. They were destroyed by businessmen for coffee growing, timber, and charcoal burning.
Nakisekka questions why the enforcement officers are taking priority to evicting subsistence farmers over the bigger cultivators, whose extent of damage and effects to the environment is far greater.
Francis Winyi, the LCV Councilor for Buwunga Sub-county, also blames the enforcement officers for not allowing the farmers to harvest their crops, which would have caused the losses. He threatens to mobilize the community to destroy other plantations in the area if the environmental officers do not take action against them.
Rose Nakyejjwe, the Masaka District Senior Environment Officer, dismisses allegations of selective implementation of the law, indicating that some of the spared farmers secured permits from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Nakyejjwe says the affected farmers were given notice to voluntarily vacate the wetlands; some ignored the advice, which required the use of force to evict them. She insists that their operations will continue until all the destroyed wetlands in the area are fully restored.