Floods push locals to back wetland restoration project

Wednesday April 21 2021
reg04pix

Ministry of Environment officials and Serere District leaders launch the restoration project of Kamurojo wetland last week. PHOTO | FRED WAMBEDE

By Fred Wambede

Whenever it rains heavily in Abuket Parish, Kyere Sub-county in Serere District, fear and agony grip the locals.

Often, River Abuket, which empties into River Awoja bursts its banks, leaving a trail of destruction.

The floods displace hundreds of families living on the river banks, especially those in Kamorojo, Abuket, Kakusa, Kyere and Omagoro parishes.

“We are far from the river but whenever its rains, our homes flood. This has been so since my childhood,” Ms Esther Akato, a resident of Abuket Village, says.

Ms Akato explains that when the river floods, they are forced to relocate to churches and neighbouring primary schools for shelter.

Mr Julius Eyaku, another resident from the neighbouring Ariet Village, says the flood menace is  also responsible for food insecurity in the area.

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“We grow our crops but we are always uncertain of harvesting due to natural calamities, mostly the floods,” he says.

The area village chairperson, Mr Joseph Etola, says they also experience prolonged drought due to extreme weather conditions.

Mr Etola says this is why as residents, they have decided to embrace the government programme of restoring Kamurojo wetland.

“We want the government to go ahead and restore that wetland. We hope when it’s restored, we will have peace and see economic growth,” he says.

The wetland  is one of the depleted wetlands in Awoja catchment ecosystem area, which covers the 14 districts of Kumi, Bulambuli, Kween, Amudat, Nakapiripirit, Bukedea, Katakwi, Napak, Soroti, Ngora, Bukwo, Sironko, and Serere.

The restoration, which has started with demarcation, is being implemented under the project, ‘Enhancing Resilience of Communities to Climate Change through Catchment-Based Integrated Management of Water and Related Resources,’ by the Ministry of Water And Environment.

Justification

According to statistics from the ministry of Environment, more than 2,000 hectares of Kamurojo wetland have been massively depleted due to human activities such as rice growing and grazing of cattle.

Mr Maximo Twinomuhangi, the team leader of Kyoga Water Management Zone, says the wetland restoration will address the challenges of floods, loss of biodiversity and prolonged droughts. “The increasing wetland degradation in this area has resulted in negative consequences but with the restoration, such challenges will be mitigated,” he says.

Mr Twinomuhangi says the affected residents will be supported with alternative sources of livelihoods such as fish farming.

Mr Patrick Okotel, the regional manager of water for production in eastern region, says Teso sub-region is susceptible to floods from Karamoja and Mt Elgon.

“The government has now designed workable solutions, which include construction of valley tanks  to control  floods and other climate change related effects,” he says.

Last week, the government commissioned the construction of six valley tanks in Teso Sub-region at a cost of about Shs3.8 billion. 

Among the districts to benefit are Kapelebyong, Katakwi and Amuria.

Mr Albert Arijobo, the commissioner of water management zones in the ministry of Environment, says the high rate of  environmental degradation is behind the continuous occurrence of disasters. 

“This project will promote sustainable development and  mitigate the effects of climate change,” he says.

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