As sand miners prosper in Uganda, a vital lake basin suffers – AP News

Sand Mining (by Sumaira Abdulali, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia).
Sand Mining (by Sumaira Abdulali, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia).

The excavator grunts in the heart of the wetland, baring its teeth. There are trucks waiting to be loaded with sand, and more almost certainly on the way.

This is how it is here daily in Lwera — a central Ugandan region on the fringes of Lake Victoria: a near-constant demand for sand that’s exerting pressure on a wetland that’s home to locals and animals and feeds into Africa’s largest freshwater lake.

Lwera is a breeding ground for fish, serves as a stop for migratory birds and can store vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide underground. The wetland stretches more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) astride the highway from the Ugandan capital Kampala into the western interior. It has long been worked over by sand miners, both legal and illegal, motivated by demand from the construction industry.

Now, all known corporate operations within the wetland have authorization to be there, giving them a measure of legitimacy that’s frustrating environmental activists, local officials and others who say the mining activities must be stopped because they degrade the wetland.

They charge that while the companies are there legally, their activities are in many ways unlawful.

Locals in Lwera’s farming community say they reap misery, complaining that mining creates few jobs and ruins the land.

Ronald Ssemanda, a local village chairman, pointed to bushy land fenced off with roofing sheets that he said had been cratered badly by sand miners.

“There is no way I can even talk to them,” said Ssemanda, referring to owners of mining operations he deems too powerful.

Ssemanda is no longer so vocal in his criticism. He said the matter “is above us.”

Sand mining — mostly for use in the construction industry — is big business, with 50 billion tons used globally each year, the United Nations Environment Programme said in a report last year. It warned that the industry is “largely ungoverned,” leading to erosion, flooding, saltier aquifers and the collapse of coastal defenses…

Africa News Report 04-35-2023:
Sand Mining Sparks Fear and Debate

In Uganda, sand is intensely being mined from wetlands in the centre of the country. The mining efforts are driven by a booming construction industry. But locals and activists warn it is endangering the ecosystem and flooding nearby residential areas.

WION Report (04-25-2023):
Intense sand mining from Uganda’s wetlands is endangering the ecosystem and flooding nearby residential areas.

The ramp-up in mining is due to the booming construction industry, and the wetlands are located near the country’s capital. It has been exploited for a long time by sand miners, both legal and illegal.


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