Understanding Impacts, Challenges, and Laws [on/governing] Sand Mining in Uganda

Sand, a naturally occurring granular material primarily composed of silica, is essential for survival of various ecosystems and sustenance of human activities such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Sand mining in and around Lakes and rivers is illegal in Uganda.

However, unregulated extraction of sand, commonly known as sand mining, presents significant environmental challenges that necessitate stringent regulations to mitigate its impacts. In Uganda, sand mining is governed by strict legal frameworks outlined in environmental and mining laws to ensure responsible extraction practices and environmental protection.

What is Sand Mining?

Sand mining refers to the process of extracting sand from Lake and river beds, beaches and inland dunes to meet the demand for construction materials, industrial uses, and agricultural applications. It involves various methods, including dredging lake & riverbeds, beach sand mining, and inland dune mining. While sand is essential for human activities, unsustainable mining practices can have detrimental effects on ecosystems and communities.

Environmental Impact of Sand Mining:

Sand mining is the cause of numerous environmental challenges, including habitat destruction, erosion, sedimentation, water quality degradation, and loss of coastal protection. These impacts can disrupt aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, degrade habitats for wildlife, and compromise water quality for human consumption and agriculture. Sand mining can also compromise the lifespan of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, culverts and other built infrastructure. Addressing the challenge associated with unregulated sand mining requires effective regulation, enforcement, and sustainable management practices.

Legal Status of Sand Mining in Uganda:

In Uganda, sand mining is subject to strict regulations outlined in environmental and mining laws to protect natural resources and ecosystems. The National Environment Act of 2019 prohibits unregulated sand mining in lakes and rivers, recognizing their ecological importance and the need for preservation.

Schedule 4 of the National Environment Act lists Extraction of sand, murram and clay of between 2m3 and 5m3 per day among the activities for which project briefs are mandatory. Sections 52, 53, 54 & 55 give guidance on the management of Lakes, Rivers, Natural Beaches and wetlands; and set parameters for the sustainable use of these resources, where sand is primarily extracted from.

Penalties for Violations:

Under the National Environment Act of 2019, individuals or companies that do not adhere to the legal guidance on sustainable use of natural resources including extraction of sand from these critical ecosystemsface severe penalties. For instance, an offender who violates the restrictions on the use of natural lakes and rivers is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding thirty thousand currency points or imprisonment not exceeding twelve years or both. These penalties underscore the seriousness of environmental offenses and serve as deterrents against illegal sand mining activities.

Legal Compliance and Enforcement:

To ensure compliance with sand mining regulations, NEMA works with the responsible lead agencies including the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Local Governments and the Civil Society to monitor, enforce and undertake public awareness campaigns on illegal sand mining. Regular inspections, audits, and surveillance help identify and deter illegal sand mining activities, protecting sensitive ecosystems and communities from environmental harm.


Sand mining is a vital but environmentally sensitive activity that requires careful regulation and enforcement to mitigate its impacts on ecosystems and communities. In Uganda, strict penalties are in place to deter violations of sand mining regulations, emphasizing the importance of legal compliance and environmental protection.

By adhering to legal requirements, conducting environmental assessments, and engaging in consultation and compliance, individuals and companies can contribute to responsible sand mining practices that safeguard the environment for future generations.

Evelyn Katasi , Environment Officer (Education and Public awareness).