Ibanda. President Museveni, together with development partners, on Monday rallied Ugandans to protect wetlands and plant trees as a measure to cushion the country against environmental catastrophes.
Speaking at Ibanda Kibubura Integrated Primary School during the national celebrations for World Environment Day, Mr Museveni reiterated his counsel that by degrading wetlands through agriculture and other activities, “we are hurting ourselves.”
He said it was God’s deliberate plan to create wetlands, rivers and lakes for survival of human being and that by destroying these features, people are opposing God.
“The water God put in wetlands, swamps, lakes and rivers is ours; he created it for us, I don’t think the water is for God because I have never heard that he gets thirsty and takes water. He put that water in swamps for us, when we destroy it we are hurting ourselves,” Mr Museveni said.
He said wetland degradation is rampant in Kabale, Bushenyi and Ntungamo districts.
He added that wetlands, forests and open water bodies in Uganda contribute 40 per cent of the rain the country receives, while 60 per cent of the rain comes from oceans.
“By invading wetlands, we are cutting off 40 per cent of the rain, therefore, we are inviting death to ourselves,” the President said.
He said among other interventions to protect the environment, government will review environmental protection laws. Mr Museveni challenged farmers to leave a 50 metre protection zone for rivers and 200 metres on lakes.
That strip of vegetation, he said, helps to protect the water bodies from silting and it helps in sieving water that is tapped from these water sources for human use. He added that degrading wetlands will make getting water for irrigation difficult yet it is no longer possible to do serious farming while relying on rainwater only.
Mr Museveni challenged people to plant trees in bare hills because they help water to penetrate into soil and form springs.
Ms Rosa Malango, the United Nations resident coordinator, urged leaders to use bulungi bwansi (community service) approach in environmental conservation. “We need smart ways to end the degradation of environment. When we talk about measures for conservation, I invite you to think of initiatives like village tree planting day or district tree planting day, which can multiply into massive reforestation by using local approaches. I understand there was a time in Uganda when the local chief would proclaim days for bulungi bwansi,” Ms Malango said. The French Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Stephanie Rivoal, called upon Ugandans to join a crusade for environmental protection. She added that a green economy is possible, and it will help create jobs and affordable energy.
“It’s because we share the same planet that we fight for climate justice…We need to make nature great again. We can’t waste time with climate change skeptics,” she said.
The theme for the celebrations was “Connect to Nature, Appreciate Biodiversity.” Canada was the host country for the World Environment Day celebrations.
Uganda metland 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, and currently there are less than 8 per cent, according to Climate Action Network Uganda. Uganda loses 6000 hectares of forest cover per month.