Uganda criminalizes sand mining in lakes and river banks

Uganda criminalizes sand mining in lakes and river banks
Sand harvesting is common in Uganda’s arid and semi-arid areas, but left uncontrolled it depletes water catchment areas, and experts say there is need to promote sustainability by striking a balance between it and environmental conservation

The Energy and Mineral Development Ministry has moved to regulate sand mining, which has become a lucrative business in the country.

A combined team of environmental experts from the Ministry and the National Environment Authority (NEMA) have completed developing the “Sand mining policy 2018”, which spells out strict guidelines for sand extraction activities as well as strong safeguards for the country’s natural ecosystem.

Dr. Jerome Ssebadduka Lugumira, a Natural Resources Management Specialist at NEMA, says the new policy is going to be aligned with the Mining Act of 2003 and National Mining Policy 2016 to develop an all-inclusive law for the minerals sector.

He explains that besides a complete ban of sand mining in lake basins and on riverbanks, the policy also restricts the use of dangerous technologies that have the potential of leaving permanent damage to the environment and the road network during transportation.

According to Lugumira, because of the absence of clear sand mining regulations, the regulators have for long been skeptical on how to enforce the environment protection compliance measures in sand mines.

The policy also requires the miners to first secure a mining permit from all relevant authorities, which will only be issued upon presentation of a viable environmental rehabilitation plan towards maintaining key ecological processes.

The policy also requires intending miners to clearly demarcate their mining fields to regulators and strictly operate within the boundaries and on the agreed program among other conditions.

Dr. Lugumira says this will help the regulators to measure the extent of extraction and limit on people that have been leaving open ditches in places they pick sand from.

While addressing stakeholders in Kalungu district, Isa Lugaizi, a Senior Geologist at the Department of Geological Survey and Mines at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, indicated that the policy will also lead to effective management of the sand mining sector such that government can also get revenue out of it.

He says the ministry is going to release a complete map detailing the available sand and other development minerals, including clay, rocks, gravel among others such that the industry can attract potential investors.

Dr. Christine Echoket, the Deputy Executive Director NEMA explains that the guidelines will help them address emerging public concerns related to poor sand mining practices that attracted the attention of parliament to demand for a specific regulatory framework.

Richard Vvubya, the Kalungu District Environment Officer and his Masaka Counterpart Roses Nakyejjwe, have welcomed the policy, saying it is going to help curtail the rampant degradation in the area.