Heavy rainfall in central Uganda has reclaimed encroached lake shores where human settlement has been going on for years. What began as a drip has developed into moments of anxiety. Many dwellers around landing sites had set up permanent structures in adjacent bays. In the past, temporary structures were erected to land fish and process it for the market.
However, population pressures created an informal market in public land, the direct sale of plots of land without land titles in what should be protected enclaves.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) could not keep up.
Curiously, this happened at the same time as a fairly successful campaign to manage illegal fishing that had depleted stock. Unfortunately, the ownership and management of these tenements was not part of their mandate. UPDF concentrated on registration of boats, acquisition of fishing gear without addressing themselves to whether the fishermen were legally staying in these areas. Now that the fish stock have recovered, they may recover a more receptive audience.
In the urban areas, entire houses have gone under. One wonders why it took so long desptie repeated warnings. Many names; ‘Lakeside’, ‘Lakeshore’ etc. dotted the southern borders of Kampala that is shared entirely with the lake. Enter tainments, markets, housing attractive to residents squeezed by high land prices.
The lake shore also attracted big capital in the form of luxury developments.
There is some interesting information about the uneven topography in some of these areas. For example, the area around Busaabala and Kigo has deep waters and did not attract the random development as did areas in Luzira, Mulungu or Nakiwogo.
The current flooding has taken in “planned developments” which probably have approved plans. A KCCA physical recording this week listed properties that are going to be made subject to restoration orders – some are multibillion properties. For the first time they were identified as being in the jurisdiction of KCCA.
The second batch of developments are in Wakiso but the outcry surrounding their development 25 years ago was simply ignored. The planning approvals allowed for development about 25 metres from the lake. The fate of these structures was not very different from clustered areas further downstream.
Any rehabilitation and restoration of these areas will require substantial costs and creation of waterways. The most rational measure may be to get rid of them even though population pressure may dictate otherwise. Italy, Netherlands, Denmark have a lot of riparian construction.
People watching the coronavirus nightmare unfold could not help but appreciate the steady construction that has already lasted 500 years and the high quality of construction. Cities like Venice have a continuous water pumping system. Living in such places costs a fortune.
The Netherlands relies on windmills to continuously pump water and support floating cities.
The most urgent issue now is to save access for water transport. Official landing sites have been battered by heavy rains affecting access to and off board for smaller vehicles. The current heavy rain, like the one of 1964-1965, which crushed marine transport, will require new construction for landing bays.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate.