Residents of Bukulula Sub-county in Kalungu District are expressing strong opposition to a proposal by Chinese investors to divert water from a crucial catchment area of Lake Victoria to make room for rice farming. Managed by Zhong Industries Limited, the rice project in Lwera is raising concerns among communities who rely on the lake for their livelihoods.
The targeted section of the lake, spanning the landing sites of Bulingo and Kalangala, is currently untouched by encroachment. However, residents from villages such as Bulingo A, B, Kalangala, and Kamugombwa fear that the Chinese firm intends to expand its rice fields to cover approximately four square miles of the lake’s catchment area.
Fishermen like Mr. Edward Bbaale from Bulingo Landing Site report that the encroachment has already commenced, with heavy machinery deployed along the swampy shoreline. Plans allegedly involve establishing a barrier to block the stream connecting the swamp to the lake, followed by pumping water out of the basin for rice cultivation.
The potential environmental impact of this venture is a major concern. Residents worry about the loss of aquatic life, including fish and wetland antelopes, if Lake Victoria is drained. Mr. Bazadde Kaweesi, chairperson of Bukulula Sub-county, urges authorities to intervene, emphasizing the need to prevent ecological disasters.
Mr. Frank Kasibante from the Biodiversity Conservation Foundation highlights the significant threat to aquatic ecosystems, particularly the breeding grounds for various fish species. The introduction of chemicals and fertilizers used in rice cultivation could further exacerbate the ecological imbalance.
Zhong Industries Limited denies any intention to encroach on the lake, stating that their expansion plans adhere to specified limits. They compare their activities to local farming practices along the lake shores.
Authorities, including the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), have been called upon to investigate the matter. While Nema’s principal communications officer, Ms. Naomi Karekaho, asserts that they will look into the issue, concerns persist among residents and conservationists about the potential consequences of diverting water from Lake Victoria.
This development adds to existing worries about rice cultivation in Lwera, prompting calls for greater engagement and oversight from local and national authorities.