River Mpanga pollution threatens irrigation scheme

Environmentalists say the project may not be sustainable if there is no government intervention

Site. The ongoing construction of the irrigation plant on River Mpanga banks, in Karangura Sub-county Kabarole District in July. PHOTO BY ALEX ASHABA  

BY ALEX ASHABA & FELIX BASIIME

IN SUMMARY

  • Conservation. The Fort Portal Municipality environmental officer, Ms Gladys Natungoza, says in July they started an exercise of removing all eucalyptus trees on the banks and other wetlands as one way of conserving environment.
  • According to Mr Edgar Muganzi, the coordinator of Natural Resources Defense Initiatives, they have established a nursery bed of trees that are environmental friendly to be planted along the river banks.

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Kabarole. Government last year embarked on construction of a Shs27b irrigation project aimed at benefitting people in Rwengaju Model Village, Busoro Sub-county in Kabarole District.
The 22km irrigation project constructed by Dott Services Limited in Kyabwire Village on River Mpanga banks, is a fulfilment of a 2006 presidential pledge.
With 50 per cent of the work done, the project is expected to be complete by December 2019.

However, there is uncertainty whether the project will serve its intended purpose as River Mpanga’s water volumes are unstable besides it being degraded.
During the last dry season, the water levels went down. Early this month, the river banks burst carrying heaps of garbage down stream.
Recently, the water turned brownish due to the siltation upstream at the hilly Karangura (the source of the river) where stone quarrying and sand mining are carried out.

Plastic bottles have continued to chock the river despite several interventions by environmentalists and other key players.
The principal water engineer at the Ministry of Water, Mr Ronald Kasozi, said the irrigation project is designed to serve only 10 model farmers in Rwengaju but the number is increasing every other day.
Mr Kasozi, however, called for the need to protect the river through implementation River Mpanga catchment plan for sustainability of the project.

Water pollution
The National Water and Sewerage Cooperation Fort Portal area manager, Mr Denis Muramuzi, said because of the degradation, during rainy seasons they get murrum instead of water which forces them to close the pumping process for more than two hours.
According to Mr Muramuzi, the Fort Portal plant serves 9,000 customers and that during shutdowns many customers in distant places do not get water.
He revealed that they have established several interventions to save the river, which include sensitisation of residents and introduction of Save River Mpanga clubs in schools.

Ms Sylvia Kugonza, a farmer in Rwengaju Village, said for the last three years she has been irrigating her crops by drawing water directly from the lake.
“I think water for production will not be enough because the source is degraded,” Ms Kugonza said.
In April, during the River Mpanga catchment committee meeting in Fort Portal town, the manager Mpanga hydro power plant, Mr Charles Mugisha, said the increased human activities on the river banks have led to its contamination.

Intervention

Conservation. The Fort Portal Municipality environmental officer, Ms Gladys Natungoza, says in July they started an exercise of removing all eucalyptus trees on the banks and other wetlands as one way of conserving environment.
According to Mr Edgar Muganzi, the coordinator of Natural Resources Defense Initiatives, they have established a nursery bed of trees that are environmental friendly to be planted along the river banks.

Issue

During the last dry season, the water levels went down. Early this month, River Mpanga banks burst carrying heaps garbage down the stream.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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