MASAKA – A Chinese firm – dealing in the extraction of commercial sand has defied orders to suspend its operations in the buffer zone of Lake Birinzi.
Last month, Bukakata sub County leadership in the company of greater Masaka Regional Environment Police closed down one of the company’s sand mining sites in Nakigga wetland, Makonzi parish, on grounds that it was causing ecological destruction.
Aloysius Jjuuko – the Bukakata sub-county chairperson, led a team of local leaders and environment personnel that raided the sand mining site –ordering workers to stop actions for allegedly operating illegally.
Despite the orders – the QQ Company Ltd has continued to operate uninterrupted – creating huge ditches as deployed machinery worked.
Joseph Jjuuko – the chairperson Land Committee for Bukakata sub County said that local leaders had twice been denied access to the mining sites – since the red flag about the company’s destructive operations, was raised.
“They instead brought more machinery on site, and have since created an alternative access route, which is now restricted from the local community – including leaders,” he revealed.
Jjuuko accused the firm of deliberately declining to cooperate with the local leadership to respond to issues related to the environmental impact assessment report.
Aloysius Jjuuko revealed that he had in the recent past, unsuccessful attempted failed to access the mines after deployed security guards denied him entry. According to him, the company was initially licenced to operate in Lwera, Kalungu district, but extended its actions into Masaka without any known authorisations.
He accuses that company of encroaching on vital water catchment areas for Lake Birinzi; which also links directly to Lake Victoria.
He alleged that the leaders were instead receiving threats from some agents who caution them against frustrating the project. Jjuuko revealed that the area local leaders were considering seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Water and Environment – adding that should the move fail to reign over the on-going sand mining activities –the local communities would be invited to raise up against the company.
January Kusiima – the Officer in charge of the Greater Masaka Regional Environmental Police said that the Chinese company would be forced to stop sand extraction in the area through a deployment of personnel at the site.
He said his assessment of the mining site had established that the company was not compliant with environmental conservation in addition to lacking an operational permit.
One of the personnel manning the sand mining site, who identified himself as Patrick Masereka revealed that the place was out of bounds to any strangers, arguing that issues of their permission were classified as ‘high-level discussions.’