In the past year, a drought that hit Uganda tickled President Museveni to issue a directive of arresting anyone who encroaches on wetlands. Following this directive politicians and political appointees have been shown on TV moving around evicting and arresting people suspected to be cultivating in the wetlands.
“All those occupying swamps should leave in peace before police comes for them. If you have planted crops, harvest, and go away,” President said in January. (Daily Monitor 25 January 2017).
Earlier in 2016, Museveni had said that the drought that was hitting the country was due to environmental degradation. “When you go to the bush and a small stick hits your eye, it is telling you to see properly. This drought and hunger are the stick telling us to see properly,” he said.
The highlight of trying to implement the presidential directive was witnesses in the scuffle between Wakiso district chairman and some Chinese investors who were caught mining sand from the shores of Lake Victoria.
Need to know information:
- In an effort to reclaim wetlands in urban centres, the Ministry of Lands announced that it would cancel over 17,000 land title deeds issued to investors and organisations in major urban areas across the country because this land was located in wetlands.
- The previous drought which was threatening food production and economic growth, had largely been blamed on the destruction of the environment.
- Environmental degradation includes destruction of wetlands for farming and human settlement, draining the lake, pollution of lakes and the land, deforestation, etc.
- In Uganda, wetlands occupy about 13% of the country’s total area. They are mostly located in the central region of the country.
Why should we protect the wetlands?
Everyone in one way or another derives his livelihood from wetlands. Therefore wetlands should be conserved for present use and for future generations.
- Conservation of wetlands can be a source of income for the people who live near them.
- Wetlands clean, purify and store water. Most of the wetlands especially the papyrus swamps retain sediments and absorb harmful substances in water. The sediments help bury any pollutants and the natural decay of plant material helps to convert the toxic substances into harmless ones. Therefore the wetlands ensure that the water flowing out is free from pollutants and clean enough for human consumption.
- Wetlands are well known for storing water. This is due to the fact that they have the special ability to retain water and release it gradually. This water can be used for several purposes like in industries, households, irrigation and animal consumption during times of drought. Their ability to retain water has enabled them to control floods by storing the collected water hence the more reason to protect them.
Apart from wetlands, Uganda’s forests too have come under severe attack from lumbers and developers.
- Between 1990 and 2005, the natural forest estate outside protected areas reduced by 35 per cent (from 3.46 million hectares in 1990 to 2.3 million hectares in 2005).
- People are converting hitherto forested land into agricultural land, timber and charcoal burning zones.
- Central forest reserves are also being encroached on i.e. Bukasa in Kampala city.
- Sometimes encroachers resist eviction notices
At most lakes, the shores have been depleted. Greenish stuff (algae) is forming on the lake shores and water is becoming unclean.
Fishermen are complaining that the fish are no longer available. This is because the fish breeding grounds have been destroying due environmental degradation.
To protect the environment, the law has to be implemented with utmost seriousness otherwise future generations may not find a viable environment.