In 2015, the Chinese Investor started cultivating part of Lwera wetland located along the Kampala-Masaka highway in Kalungu district to establish a commercial rice farm. The project has been strongly opposed by some local leaders, civil societies and sections of the public due to environmental destruction.
The investor is currently operating on a radius of 600 acres located at the outskirts of Lukaya town council in Kalungu district.
Moses Ssempala the LCI chairperson of Bulingo, a village next to the rice estate says the Chinese are already luring residents in the area to sell off their pieces of land for rice growing.
He says that the investor has approached residents practicing substance farming asking them to accept compensation for their gardens and give them away for expansion of the project.
Gerald Ssenyondo, the Lukaya town council chairperson confirms receiving reports of locals who have obtained money from the investor to vacate their gardens for expansion of the plantation.
He however indicates that some of these residents being compensated for the gardens were only permitted to grow seasonal crops that do not pose negative effects to the wetland.
Victor Mpinga, the project’s community liaisons and communications officer Zhong Industries Limited say that their expansion plans are coherent with guidelines of the National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA, which initially cleared them to establish the plantation in the area.
He explains that their urge to expand the plantations is intended to increase and sustain their production capacity. Mpinga adds that they are waiting for the operational certificate from NEMA.
Tom Okurut, the Executive Director of NEMA, says that the rice project was approved but the investors have not cultivated the critical part of the Lwera wetland.
Dr Okurut says the NEMA technical team will study the application and carry out an evaluation on compliance of the investor’s activities before issuing him another certificate to allow him to expand the project.
However according to residents, besides clearing a sizeable part of the swamp that acted as a water catchment for Lake Victoria, the project interfered with the drainage system leading to heavy flooding during rainy seasons.