Govt issues flood alert, tells lakeside residents to vacate

Friday May 14 2021
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Environment minister Samuel Cheptoris and Dr Florence Grace Odongo, the director for water resources management, speak to journalists on Monday. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE

By Stephen Otage

The Ministry of Water and Environment has warned all people living on river banks and lakeshores to vacate before impending floods expected from the current rising water levels.

Dr Florence Grace Odongo, the director for water resources management at the Ministry of Water and Environment, said the water level on Lake Victoria, has risen to 13.4 meters, which is only short of 8cm to reach the levels of last year and yet the rain season has just started.

“Lake Victoria is getting full and the only way water exits it is through the River Nile, which drains into Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert that empty it but all these are also getting full of water. The only thing we are going to see is flooding of River Banks and Lake Shores,” she said.

Dr Odongo was on Monday presenting her ministry’s performance in the implementation of the 2016 NRM Manifesto in Kampala on Monday.


Water levels

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Dr Odongo explained that from last year’s experience where the water level on Lake Victoria hit 13.48 meters, the highest in 124 years, the situation is not looking good. This is because, she said, Lake Victoria basin traps water from Rwanda, Tanzania, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and all the rain in Uganda yet the underground water system is full because of encroachment on wetlands and forests.

Mr Willis Bashasha, the director in-charge of the Manifesto Implementation Unit, noted that much as the ministry has performed well in increasing access to water and sanitation services across the country, it has done little to contain encroachment and destruction of forests and wetlands across the country.

Mr Sam Cheptoris, the minister of Water and Environment, admitted that much as they promised to increase wetland coverage from 10 per cent in 2016 to 12.4 per cent in 2021, it currently stands at 8.9 per cent due to increased population pressure. He attributed this to low enforcement of the existing laws.

“We have very few enforcement officers under the environment police. Under the 2019 Environment Act, we were supposed to recruit our own force like the Uganda Wildlife Authority but unfortunately, we do not have command over the Environmental Police to protect wetlands and forests,” Mr Cheptoris said.

The Environmental Protection Police Unit was created in December 2011 to support the Ministry of Water and Environment in enforcing environmental laws and regulations.

On Monday, the ministry was among the four ministries, which presented how they implemented the promises the ruling government made to Ugandans during the 2016 election campaigns. Other ministries are those of Science Innovations and Technology, Agriculture and Public Service.

Background

  Mr Sam Cheptoris, the minister of Water and Environment, admitted that much as they promised to increase wetland coverage from 10 per cent in 2016 to 12.4 per cent in 2021, it currently stands at 8.9 per cent due to increased population pressure.

He attributed this to low enforcement of the existing laws.

The Environmental Protection Police Unit was created in December 2011 to support the Ministry of Water and Environment in enforcing environmental laws and regulations.


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