As I travelled on Masaka Road recently, I noticed some of the changes on one of the big swamps compared to what it was 10 years ago. While trying to share my experience with a friend I was travelling with, he said “what is all this fuss about the swamp? China is one of the biggest growing economies, but do they care about swamps? On the contrary, they don’t!”
Considering that 80 per cent of Uganda’s population depends on agriculture, natural resources such aswetlands offers immense values and functions. These values and functions have on several occasions been reiterated by the President, who has consistently issued strong messages regarding protection and sustainable use of wetlands. It should be noted that from 1994 to date, wetlands in Uganda have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Human activities, increase in population and expansion of urbanisation are blamed for the destruction of wetlands.
Atlas Volume two launched by the Ministry of Water and Environment in collaboration with UNEP, highlighted that wetland resources account for 11 per cent of the total land area.
The question is, how can we help our communities to understand the value of wetlands? How can people be sensitised to use wetlands sustainably and enable them appreciating the special roles it plays in ensuring water quality, flood control as well as enhancing resilience of communities to climate change.
But how do we deal with private sector investments that encroach on wetlands? The private sector has overtime taken advantage of these ecosystem services and sometimes misused them at the expense of other Ugandans. If we are to conserve our precious wetlands, we need to expedite the process of cancelling all the titles in wetlands and stop any issuance of new ones. Communities have been complaining that the government only evicts the “small fish” while leaving the “big fish” to destroy wetlands.
The ongoing review of the 23-year-old Uganda National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources (1995) and the draft Bill by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with Partners for Resilience through the Integrated Risk Management Wetlands Project provides the country an opportunity drwa a comprehensive legislative framework and strategies that address emerging key issues that contribute to the degradation of wetlands.