12,000 face relocation over mudslide threat

Mudslides seal off a road after a heavy downpour in Buwabwal Sub-county in Manafwa District recently. The government has warned of possible mudslides during this rainy season. Photo by David Mafabi

What you need to know:

Staying put. Although concerned ministries indicate that the soils around Mt. Elgon are weakening, exposing locals to risk, the residents stay put, saying there is a plan to steal their land.

About 12,000 people staying in the Bududa section of Mt. Elgon will be relocated to camps before being moved permanently into urban centres ahead of a heavy downpour expected next month, the multi-ministerial team has said.

The team comprises of the Ministry of Works, Lands, Internal Affairs, Trade and Industry, Local Government and officials from the Prime Minister’s office.

Led by Mr Vincent Woboya, a coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister, the officials conducted a week-long mapping exercise of areas prone to mudslides and have registered more than 12,000 people for immediate relocation from the hilly areas.

“We have so far registered 12,321 people from Bududa hilly areas prone to mudslides and these are going to be relocated immediately to avoid mudslide incidents such as those in Nametsi and Bumwalukani, where many lives were lost,” Mr Woboya said on Wednesday.

However, about 400,000 residents at risk of mudslides have remained adamant, arguing that the cracks seen by Uganda Wildlife Authority are merely a scapegoat for them to be evicted from their cradle land.

The Prime Minister’s office that has already carried out an assessment to ascertain the risk on Mt. Elgon and the surrounding ridges in the mountainous areas, including the 40 kilometre crack across the mountain, however, insists that the people have to be moved.

“We may not see the weakening of the soil in the area but the 40 kilometre crack speaks volumes about an impending mudslide and there is no other option left but to have people in the landslide risk areas relocated since it is likely that there will be muslides every rainy season,” Dr Stephen Mallinga, the Disaster minister, said.

Population pressures
National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority also warned that small mud flows seen on the mountain, with many water openings, is an indication that the rocks are under tension and that some small cracks formed due to bad farming practices, foot paths as well as road construction on the slopes, make the area prone to mudslides.

Dr Goretti Kitutu, the environment systems specialist at NEMA, said because of the ever increasing population, people have encroached on the forest cover on the mountain for settlement and economic activities, loosening the soils.

“Nobody can control mudslides traditionally or using ash, people must move away for safety because the entire mountain is a risky place,” Dr Kitutu said.


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