President Museveni's brother, also senior presidential advisor on security and defense, Gen Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh) has backed the excavation of sand from lakes saying Uganda has no choice if it's to embrace industrialisation.
Recently, leaders and environmentalists led by Wakiso district chairman Matia Lwanga Bwanika accused Chinese companies of degrading Lake Victoria while excavating sand. There have been a similar outcry from Masaka where Chinese firms were accused of degrading wetlands in Lwera along the Kampala-Masaka highway.
Most of this sand is sold to construction sites in Namunkekera rural industrial centre in Kapeeka town, Nakaseke district for construction works. It will also be used as raw material in making ceramic tiles.
Saleh, who is also chairman of Namunkekera rural industrial centre says that the revenue and employment that will be generated from industries being constructed using the sand outweigh the environmental concerns raised.
Saleh explains that the companies were licensed by Uganda Investment Authority, Ministry of Water and Transport, National Environment Management Authority, among others, to engage in sand mining with a view that this can help to protect the lakes from unregulated mining.
Saleh however, notes that area politicians have delayed the activities which have also paralyzed construction of industries in the industrial centre adding that Uganda must make a painful choice to either allow sand mining to facilitate industrialisation or allow its citizens remain jobless.
"My appeal to you is that you have seen, you have come out to only one industrial centre, and you have seen the demand for sand. I have also informed you that the costings of the standard gauge railway which were a problem, have been cleared now the SGR is going to start. The SGR alone requires 12 million tons of sand. Where shall we get that sand from? For Namunkekera, for SGR, for Zhou in Tororo, for all the hydro electricity dams that we’re supposed to be constructing? That is the question which is bothering me now that all of us must answer," said Saleh.
Jerry Zhou the business supervisor of Goodwill (Uganda) Ceramic Company Limited, a company being constructed at Namunkekera says that they currently need 2000 tons of sand to complete the construction of industries that will manufacture ceramics. However, he adds, that they are facing a supply shortage.
Zhou adds that they have so far injected $15 million in construction works and they want the company to be operational by March this year. He adds that 10 companies are also set for construction within Namunkekera but all these need sand for construction and the government should decide whether the raw materials are available or not.
Mendy Yu the business officer of Mango Tree, a company engaged in sand mining refuted the accusation of degrading the lake and instead accused local politicians of frustrating their activities. Mendy insisted that they are working within guidelines from Uganda Investment Authority and Ministry of Works.
Last year, district leaders and officials from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) blocked Mango Tree Group from excavating sand in Kawuku village, Nkumba parish, and Katabi town council on grounds that the company's activities had a negative impact on the eco-system of the lake shores.
NEMA also issued a statement indicating that the license they issued to Mango Tree, is only limited to making ships and not sand mining. The company started operations in 2015 while making cargo ships and later crossed into sand mining. Afterwards, its officials camped at Saleh's home in Kapeeka asking him to intervene and ask government to allow them to proceed with their activities.