Mbale locals plant bamboo to check floods

A member of Likono Lye Bamasaba  Development Initiative  plants a  bamboo sapling on  the banks of River Nabuyonga on August 4. At least 29 people died when rivers in Mbale City flooded last year. PHOTO/MICHEAL WONIALA   

What you need to know:

The residents want to avert floods and mitigate climate change

In an effort to combat the recurring floods that have continued to plague Mbale City, residents have embarked on a mass bamboo planting project along river banks in the city.

 With the aim of planting 50,000 bamboo saplings, they seek to mitigate the devastating impact of floods.

 The rivers where bamboo is to be planted include Nakyibiso, Namatala, Nabuyonga and Nagayilila.

 This comes after last year’s incident where the rivers flooded and claimed the lives of 29 people and left more than 800 households destroyed and thousands homeless.

 Pastor David Nashanga, the chairman of the initiative dubbed Likono Lye Bamasaaba for Development Initiative, said degradation of the river banks was among the major causes of the floods.

 He said planting bamboo will restore the river shores and in the long run mitigate floods.

 “In areas where there was bamboo along the shores of rivers, the effect was not too much according to our research and it’s why we zeroed on bamboo,” he said last week.

 He said bamboo is known for its remarkable ability to absorb excess water and stabilise soil, and has proven to be a valuable asset in flood prevention strategies worldwide.

 “We found out that bamboo is a water reservoir, if we had planted bamboo, floods wouldn’t have killed people,” he said.

 Pr Nashanga made the remarks during the launch of the project which also marked the remembrance of people who died in floods in Mbale City last year. The launch took place in Mbale at the weekend.

 Ms Joanita Mbabazi, the communications manager of Mt Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise, said they have started restoring 21km of River Nagayilila and others.

 “The impact of the floods was very devastating and we want to see all rivers in the city restored and all people occupying river banks relocated to other areas,” she said.

 Ms Rhoda Nyaribi, the principal environment officer of Mbale City, called upon people to respect the buffer zone of 100 metres. She said most river banks have been degraded by human settlement.

Ms Nyaribi said planting bamboo is a good initiative because it has roots that are good at holding the soil together and also good at moderating climate by storing high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

 “As a city, we have also developed plans of what needs to be done along these streams and we are planting trees of different species,” she said.

 Professor of Geography, Gimui Kiboma, said the city council should support planting bamboo along river banks and other places in the city, saying it minimises flooding and loss of valuable soils.

 Prof Kiboma said bamboo has several uses including malewa (edible bamboo shoots) , poles, fuel, paper pulp, fibre, textiles, cosmetics, medicine, environmental protection, mitigation of climate change, timber substitutes and material for handicrafts, among others.

 “Bamboo is a special plant for various reasons but most important it can make medicine and also stops erosion and flooding,” he said.

 He said fast-growing bamboo will create a sustainable source of income through the production of various bamboo-based products such as handicrafts and furniture.

 Mr Hamza Banja, the deputy resident city commissioner of the industrial city division, said:  “The initiative aligns with the city’s and government’s broader sustainable development goals and climate change mitigation strategies so that our people can live without fear of devastating floods.”