PARK LAND GRABBING SPREADS TO QUEEN ELIZABETH NP
News came to light late yesterday, that residents living at the Katunguru trading centre, just across the bridge spanning the Kazinga Channel, have attempted to ‘grab park land’ in an overnight ‘raid’.
It is understood from a usually reliable source at Uganda Wildlife Authority, that this may be a ‘copycat’ action similar to the situation at Mt. Elgon National Park, where politicians incited people to indiscriminately move into the park, appropriate themselves land, cut trees and build makeshift huts to try and firm up their claims that the lands belongs to them.
The same ‘arguments’ emerged according to the same source when UWA staff discovered that makeshift huts had been erected on demarcated national park land. This also sheds more light on the recent poisoning of ‘Mary the elephant’ who was a regular visitor at the Katunguru trading centre where it amused tourist visitors but angered shopkeepers, who claimed the animal was a danger and prevented them from doing business. The animal was less than two weeks ago found dead and suspicions are, though no hard evidence has been discovered so far, that locals had their hand in the poisoning.
Tourism is a major source of income for locals living in and around national parks, and grabbing land and poisoning of animals is not only criminal but counterproductive. Local political leaders need to understand that tourists shun ‘hot spots’ and places of controversy and if they do want their own people to benefit from tourism income and employment opportunities, they need to embrace conservation fully and not sit on the fence, pay lipservice only or as seems the case here fundamentally oppose it.
Watch this space.