Wednesday April 30 2014

If we all took these small steps, we would save our environment

By Katherine Nabuzale

We may try to put blame on others and come up with excuses for failing to meet our expectations or responsibilities, but the issue of protecting and conserving the environment doesn’t call for such trivialities.

Environmental conservation and protection involves each and everyone and requires no blame or excuses. Instead, we should ask ourselves if each of us is doing their part in as far as protecting our environment is concerned.

We simply can’t afford to have towns devoid of greenery like leisure parks, urban forestry and no preservation of ecosystems. Towns full of buildings of which human activities contribute to the greenhouse effect are causing harm to our environment.

Wetlands that are supposed to be water beds are being traded for development, thus worsening environmental degradation. The consequences of encroaching on wetlands are evident: When it rains, the water has no outlets to reduce the downstream impact of runoff by filtering and holding water after heavy rains.

Climate change affects all of us hence the urgent need for comprehensive measures and plans for resilience in case of unusual weather events. People in authority should use their mandate to ensure the whole country embraces the spirit of protecting and conserving our environment.

We need good laws that should be strictly enforced if we are to succeed in environment conservation and fighting global warming. Even simple rules requiring every home to have a tree or two would make a significant difference.

In addition, educating homeowners, builders and communities on the importance of tree cover, grading and proper disposal of garbage would help them develop plans that conserve the environment .

Planting water-friendly plants that can develop larger root systems, especially in flood-prone areas, would be a bonus to our environment. The starting point, however, is not removing mature vegetation. This is a more effective remedy (a great way to preserve those mature trees with large root networks).

Another key intervention to save our forests is for government to make electricity more affordable and investing in alternative sustainable energy sources. Uganda, like many other developing countries, uses little commercial energy for cooking. The widely used energy for cooking is wood and charcoal.

In rural areas, people use wood for cooking because most of the areas are not connected to the electricity power grids or they simply can’t afford to pay electricity bills. The same applies to urban areas where the cost of living is quite high.

Therefore, solid investments in renewable and sustainable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass will provide affordable electricity across the country. By increasing competition and diversifying our energy supplies, general energy tariffs will consequently stabilise.

Government should also urgently improve and streamline the transport sector so that more people can comfortably use public means instead of private vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. In regard to plastic bags, bottle manufacture and use, a law should be passed and implemented demanding that monetary value is added to them. This will prevent careless disposal of plastics.

Uganda’s diverse sources of renewable energy have the potential to provide all the electricity the country needs as well as mitigate the unemployment crisis by creating jobs. Furthermore, extensive use of sustainable energy will widen the tax collection base, thus boosting the economy.

Let all of us play our role in protecting our environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

We can do this by taking small but significant steps like reducing unnecessary consumption to avoid wastage and overproduction, proper disposal of garbage and wastes, grading plastics for recycling, carrying our own shopping bags, turning off electric appliances when not in use, maintaining cars in good mechanical condition to reduce over burning of fuel, opting for car pools when travelling to the same destination, and using both sides of paper while printing.

Ms Nabuzale comments on social and environment issues.