Mbarara. Climate Action Network Uganda (CAN U), a non-governmental organisation engaged in environment conservation advocacy on Monday petitioned government to address issues of climate change.
In the petition presented by Mr Isaac Kabongo, the chairperson of the organisation, during the World Environment Day National celebrations in Ibanda District, rapid population growth (of 3.2 per cent per annum) was cited as a major cause of the widespread encroachment on environmental resources.
The petition states that political interference, government failure to enforce environmental protection compliance by investors, and inadequate funding to the environment sub-sector have also contributed to environment degradation.
“Uganda Wetlands mapping exercise in 2008 indicated that wetlands had reduced from 15 per cent in 1994 to less than 10.8 per cent of Uganda’s area due to pressure from industrial development, settlements, agriculture, clay and sand mining. Currently they are less than 8 per cent of the total area,” the petition reads in part.
“Allocation to sub sector remains dismal, making it very difficult for the environmental agencies to function effectively. We note with concern the fact that much of the sub sector budget is outside the Joint Budget Support Framework and its joint assessment framework….”
Speaking at the celebrations, President Museveni said government would review environment protection law.
He, however advised citizens to stop wetland degradation and cutting down of forests.
The President reiterated that Kabale, Bushenyi and Ntungamo are the districts with heavily degraded wetlands. He noted that wetlands, forests and open water bodies in contribute 40 per cent of the rain the country receives while 60 per cent of it comes from oceans.
“By invading wetlands we are cutting off 40 per cent of the rain, therefore we are inviting death to ourselves,” said Mr Museveni.
According to the district environment officer, Mr Joseph Murangira, 71 of the 75 gazzeted wetlands in Kabale have been destroyed.
To combat this, Mr Murangira called for both central government and the local leadership intervention to promote wetland restoration. “If not restored, our district will face challenges of desertification and water shortages,” he said.
Residents in the various areas with wetlands have turned them into gardens, dairy and fish farms. Others carry out sand mining and brick making.
The Kabale District speaker, Ms Loy Zikampereza, says central government will have to compensate the community in case of eviction since they entirely depend on the wetlands.
“For more than 35 years, residents in Rubaya Sub-county have been using Kahungye wetland to grow Irish potatos. Waking up with a proposal to evict them without providing an alternative will be very unfair,” Ms Zikampereza said.
The Ntungamo natural resources officer, Ms Dinah Tumwebaze Joga, said: “ In Itojo Sub-county, Nyamukana and Nyaruteme wetlands have not been spared,” adding that they are currently addressing more than 100 cases environmental degradation.
President Museveni recently ordered for immediate vacation of wetlands in Ntungamo especially Kyamate and Keitanturegye wetlands in the municipality.
The Ntungamo town clerk, Mr Christopher Ahimbisibwe, revealed that the encroachers had planted eucalyptus trees.
“We have notified the encroachers including the Ntungamo Woman MP Beatrice Rwakimari to restore the wetland by cutting down trees they had planted,” Mr Ahimbisibwe said.
However, the Resident District Commissioner, Ms Justine Mbabazi, noted that restoring of wetlands will not be an easy task as the rich are the biggest encroachers. It is alleged that Mr Steven Rwangyezi, the director Ndere centre, has dug several fish ponds in Nyaruteme Wetland Itojo Sub-county.
The Bushenyi District environment officer, Mr Vincent Kataate, attributed wetland destruction to weak government policies and poor funding of the environment staff.
Speaking to Daily Monitor, the National Environment Management Authority focal person for South-Western region, Mr Jeconious Musingwire, said: “About 50 per cent of wetland resources are being squeezed because of agricultural activities, industrial development and urbanisation.”
The degraded wetlands in Mbarara are Rucece in Nyakayojo Division, Rubindi, Rushanje, Kibingo, Kashasha, Bujaga, and Kibuba-Kongoro –Nyakaikara.
However, restoration of wetlands has been done in the lower part of Rucece, 118 acres of Nyakambu wetland shared by Mbarara and Sheema districts formerly degraded have been restored while in Kashasha-Kibingo –Rushanje wetland recovery is at 60 per cent.