UGANDA, Masaka | Real Muloodi News | Conservationists in Masaka have opposed entrepreneur Andy Kamugisha, a private developer, who plans to take over the Masaka Eco-Tourism Site at Kijabwemi on the Masaka-Mbarara Highway, adjacent to the Nabajjuzi Wetland. Nabajjuzi is designated as a Ramsar site, one of Uganda’s nine wetlands of international importance.
According to Nature Uganda’s executive director, Achilles Byaruhanga, the private developer had asked Nature Uganda to remove its properties, including telescopes, binoculars, and guidebooks, from the site.
“I really don’t know what he plans to put there, but he called recently and ordered me to remove our property. It is unfortunate that they can give such an important site away which is promoting tourism of the area to a private developer,” he stated.
Nature Uganda established a tourism spot in 2004 to watch birds and animals in the Nabajjuzi Ramzar Wetland, notable for housing many threatened species, such as the papyrus yellow warbler, endangered shoebill, and provides a spawning ground for lungfish and mudfish. The site also comprises a watchtower where guests can see animals and birds in the Nabajjuzi Ramzar site. The Nabajjuzi Ramzar site lies in Buganda Kingdom’s ancient Buddu County, and some of its flora and fauna are strongly linked to cultural norms and traditions, including totems.
Achilles said that the private developer took advantage of the first and second lockdowns to take possession of the property because tourists were not coming into the country. He added the takeover would affect Nature Uganda’s implementation strategy for a community-based management plan for the Nabajjuzi Wetland System.
Achilles and his team hoped to promote the location as a wetland reserve with further funding.
Prossy Kabanda, a spokeswoman for the Biodiversity Conversation Foundation (BCF), a local environmental rights advocacy group, questioned the private developer’s capacity to safeguard the area’s ecosystem, as Nature Uganda has done.
“Some people come up with plans, but alter them when it comes to implementation. Nabajjuzi is a Ramsar site and we fear that the private developer may end up destroying it,” she said.
Florence Namayanja, Masaka City Mayor, stated that the property claimed by the private developer is one of the city properties being investigated.
“That land is among the many pieces of land in Masaka whose ownership is contested and the only solution is to conduct a land audit which we are already pushing for,” she said.
According to Pauline Nabadda, Masaka City’s environment officer, the entrepreneur Andy Kamugisha who allegedly owns the contested area, aims to build a leisure park according to environmental rules. She added that Nature Uganda had also left the property to deteriorate without being repaired.
“It is true the closure of the site negatively affected the incomes of artisans who were earning from selling handmade craft items to tourists, but the owner of the land has promised to review it and make it more attractive,”
“Overgrown trees cover the currently dilapidated wooden watchtower. For the last 10 years Nature Uganda has been in charge of that site, they have failed to refurbish it,” she said.
When contacted, Andy Kamugisha stated he is environmentally conscious and will not affect the nearby Nabajjuzi Ramsar wetland. He also refused to say how he came to own the property.
“I love nature and tourism, and the project I plan to put there will be environment friendly,” he said.
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