Conserve wetlands to check floods

Friday January 31 2020

Cars submerged by the floods in Mukono on June

Cars submerged by the floods in Mukono on June 8, 2019. PHOTO BY JESSICA SABANO 


While addressing journalists in Kampala on Wednesday, the Minister for Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, criticised Ugandans for the devastating effects of floods.
According to the minister, some Ugandans have encroached on wetlands that would have acted as water catchment areas hence forcing floods into their homes and resulting into destruction of property and sometimes loss of lives.
While it is true that wetland encroachers are partly to blame for the floods in across the country, including Kampala, Wakiso, Mpigi, Mukono districts, that could just be part of the story.
There are other people who attribute the floods to lack of political will to protect wetlands across the country. Uganda is among United Nations member states that adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) whose agenda is to improve the social and economic wellbeing of the people, especially those from the least developing countries.
However, development has come along with negative effects, especially on the environment. In recent years, the country’s wetlands, forests and water bodies have come under intense pressure from people who want land for investments, including construction of industries, cultivation of crops such as rice, sugarcane, etc. Others cut forests for timber and open land for farming.
Unfortunately, some of the developers often get blessings from either the institutions such as Nema or government officials who are supposed to protect these national resources.
In the mix of all this, the ecosystem is distorted hence leaving the affected areas vulnerable to floods and other harsh weather conditions. This is where the talk of lack of political will comes in.
The lack of political will to protect wetlands is partly to blame for the reduction in wetland coverage in Uganda over time. For instance, wetland coverage in the country has reduced from 13 per cent in 1994, to 8.9 per cent currently. And whereas more than 8,000 hectares of destroyed wetlands have countrywide have been restored, nearly 40,000 hectares have been lost since 1994. This is absurd.
Like minister Cheptoris told journalists, it is wrong for some people to think that the development, of whatever nature, they establish is more important than the wetlands they destroy or the people they inconvenience.
Going forward, the government, environmentalists and leaders at all levels, should rollout a programme to sensitise citizens about the importance of conserving the environment.

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