The adage, “never bite the hand that feeds you” seems meaningless to residents of Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts.
Wetlands are biodiversity havens, acting as breeding grounds and habitat for aquatic animals including birds, fish, papyrus used for craft industry, tourism purposes and other wildlife.
There is more to these marshes though; “the most important function of wetlands, especially in these areas are filtering water from pollutants, control flooding and stores it,” Mr Paul Mafabi, the director of Environment in the ministry of Water and Environment, says.
Despite such uses, a study by the Ministry of Water and Environment entitled: The Wetland Atlas for Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono, indicates disconsolate future, not only for the aquatic life but the country at large.
The report lists more thna 30 wetlands facing excruciating pressure that may result into extinction if encroachers are not stopped soonest.
The wetlands, according to the report, are under constant threat from encroachers looking for land for settlement, industrial, agriculture and putting up social amenities like roads among others.
Some of the wetlands are listed below;
Lubigi wetland one of the many wetlands facing extinction despite their critical role of filtering, retaining and controlling floods.
This expansive wetland has for long been a soft target for encroachers who reclaim it for settlement, setting up gardens, bricklaying, washing bays or other activities.
Although it shields parts of Kampala as well as Wakiso District from flooding, in 2011 people claiming to be army veterans attempted to settle there but were stopped.
Again in 2013, a group of traders under Uganda Patriotic Voluntary Organisation (UPAVO) descended on the same wetland and started constructing stalls, claiming they had authorisation from State House.
Recently, officials from the National Environment Management Authority, (Nema) warned that should this wetland disappear, the entire Central Cattle Corridor, which includes Luweero, Nakasongola, Nakaseke, among other districts will not have water.
Apart from encroachers, the wetland has seen mega projects that constructed in it decimating it further, thereby limiting its ability to filter and store water.
These projects include the Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation treatment plant among others.
Covering 5.29 square kilometers and permanently water logged, this is the biggest wetland in Kampala.
It covers most parts of Nakawa, Bugolobi, Mpanga and Muyenga hills carrying and filtering all water from the hinterland into Lake Victoria.
Apart from being home to endangered bird species such as Crested Cranes, Nakivubo wetland hosts Bugolobi Sewerage Treatment Plant managed by National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
But what started as a small land encroachment on the wetland mainly for rudimental agriculture in 2000, the report says 10 years later, settlements and industries have been built in Wakaliga valley, Namuwongo, Kitintale, Mpanga valley, Bugolobi and Kitintale decimating the wetland’s ability to filter water.
The immediate effect of this wetland has been alga blooms in the inner Murchison Bay, meters to the Lake Victoria.
Another important wetland is Kintate. It was, however, modified to serve as both a wetland and a green corridor for recreation. The beautiful looking Kitante is house the Kampala Golf Course.
The report, however ,says course is contributing to wetland destruction as large amounts of fertilisers and other chemicals are used to maintain the lush and attractive greens. The pollution from these fertilisers goes to Lake Victoria, the main source of water for the city and neighbouring dwellers.
The Inner Murchison Bay wetlands
By all standards, this is one of the most important wetland in Kampala. It plays a critical role as a sole recipient of water regardless of the quality from Nakivubo channel before draining it into Lake Victoria.
But the shoreline of the wetland is filled up with industries that continue to discharge waste water into the lake. Some of the industries located in the area are; Mukwano industries, City Abattoir, Peacock paint factory and fabrics factory-Phoenix Logistics.
With a population of 395,276 in Makindye Division according to the 2014 Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the biggest wetland Kyetinda in division is facing unprecedented reclamation pressures for settlers.
The once 1.43 square kilometers, is currently, according to the Atlas report says “It is not easy to recognise the upstream area… since the surrounding hills have almost all been occupied by settlements and human pressure extents to the wetlands”
Originally, another wetland in Makindye Division Kansanga wetland covered a 4.54 square kilometers and until 2008 when people started filling it with murrum for either settlement or agriculture.
Currently, the Atlas report indicates that, the wetland has been “constricted to a narrow channel in the upstream area” as more settlers extend to the Ggaba road one of the hinterland of Lake Victoria.
Nalukolongo wetland before 2002 once covered over 0.91sq kms of the total area of Rubaga Sub-county, according to the report. Its size, however, characterised by both permanent and seasonal swamps is occupying a shallow valley between Mutundwe, Rubaga, Lungujja and Busega hills before draining into Mayanja Kaato wetland system.
Factories and human settlement have now taken up the area occupied by water and other aquatic animals which has come with high costs of flooding according to report. The flooding water leads to “mixing of sewage from pit latrines with wetland water which has implications on the health of the community since the wetland is a source of water for domestic use”, the report notes.
Mukono District wetlands
Namanve wetland located in Nama Sub-country, Mukono District
The destruction of this particular wetland dates as far as 1928 when the government turned the wetland, which was part of a forest, into a eucalyptus trees growing area mainly to get fuel wood. In 1997, about 1,000.6 hactares of the forest reserve and the wetland was degazetted and turned it into an industrial park.
Its destruction means that all the dirty water coming from the park runs straight into Lake Victoria.
RIVER SEZIBWA SYSTEM
This is a seasonal wetland, located in Mukono Municipality. It can be reached via Mukono- Nakabugo. The Njogezi Wetland lies between Njogezi and Lwajjali rivers and the neighbouring villages include Nakabago, Nasuti, Kanga and Ntaawo in Mukono District.
In 2000, the report says, the wetland had swamp forest, shrubs, reeds; woodland and natural grasslands but the expanding Mukono town has diminished the wetland for settlement, sand mining, agriculture among others. This has resulted into silting of the said rivers which finally drains in River Ssezibwa.
Mbalala wetland (Nakawolole)
Mbalala wetland is permanently waterlogged and covers an expansive part of Mukono District, including areas like Ngandu, Kigombya, Lyanyonyi, Mbalala, Kasenge, Namawojolo and Walusubi before pouring its water into River Ssezibwa near Namawojolo.
The wetland is, however, facing continuous degradation from cultivators, including for sugar cane production by Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL).
Other developments on the wetland include mushrooming schools, human settlements, factories such Abacus pharmaceuticals, Raj Developers, Sterling Materials Yard, Tiang Tiang Group, Comfoam, Unistrong industries, Global Paper Product Industries, EON Investments CCLE Tyre and Lubricants, Lida Packaging and Grow More Seeds.
Others are Riley Packaging Industry, Quality plastics, Kato Aromatics, Seeta High School, Mukono among others.
These are found east of Mukono District at the border with Kayunga District. They stretch over 2KMs in many places. Wetlands in Namayumba in Ntunda Sub-county and Kakukuulu in Kasawo Sub-county are like other wetlands in the region. Fringes of wetlands are cultivated until the depth of the water becomes prohibitive.
What is unique about this wetland is that it increased tremendously and can be seen as patches of open water in two places. One is at the junction of wetlands north of Namayuba Parish Ntunda Sub-county and the other water body in form of a river is in the wetland on the western side of Namayuba Parish.
This is a permanent wetland located in Ntenjeru Sub-county. It can be accessed through the Mukono- Ssanga road. It drains into Zirimiti swamp and finally into Lake Victoria through a wide flat valley that slopes gradually. Current land use includes thatching materials, cultivation and hunting. The surrounding area is under subsistence agriculture, brick burning and human settlement.
The major threats are brick burning deforestation vegetation burning and soil erosion.
WAKISO DISTRICT WETLANDS
This wetland originates from Makindye Ssabagabo in Wakiso District. The report says in earlier years, it used to run from Wankulukuku in Rubaga Division across Entebbe Road through Makindye Ssabagabo and then pours its water pour into Lake Victoria at Munyonyo.
But this has since changed relegating the once beautiful wetland to “a meager trickle’’ as more people descend on it from all corners for agriculture, settlement, industrialisation, among others. Most of the catchment areas for this wetland, including Kaliddubi, Gangu, Buziga, Ndikuttamada and Luwafu have been decimated.
Lufuka wetland in Makindye Sub-county was by 1996 intact and providing a perfection filtration for lake water. But now, according to the report, settlements, hotels and prison farms are decimating the wetland shared between Mutungo and Kigo on the shores of Lake Victoria. By 2014, the report says, half of the wetland had been converted to land and is likely to disappear soon.
Kinawataka wetland forms part of Lake Victoria System and covers 1.5 square kilometers in both Wakiso and Kampala. This wetland provides key ecological functions to the inner Murchison bay including slowing down rain water runoff, controlling up stream flooding and filtering poisonous chemicals from industries before the water enters L. Victoria.
This wetland occupies a huge valley running from Ntinda- Banda -Kyambogo Kireka, Mbuya and Mutungo hills and before draining into Lake Victoria.
But since 2004, the report says as of 2014, almost the entire wetland is overrun with settlements especially in Buye, Wankolokolo, Kinawataka slum, Kasokoso. Mutungo Zone 3 Kirombe village and Banda valley.
The immediate effect of this wetland destruction is severe flooding around Kyambogo and Kireka whenever it rains.
Kasa mabamba wetland
This permanent wetland is located in Mabamba Bay, West of Entebbe International Airport in Kasanje Sub-county.
It is approximated at 9km south west of Kasanje Trading Center in Entebbe. Its location is Mabamba Bay, a home to over 300 birds species, including endangered shoebill, blue swallow, papyrus yellow warbler and gull billed tern among others.
The destruction of this wetland means killing the budding tourism sector that is employing thousands of people and bringing billions of shillings in revenue as tourists come to watch these birds.
Lutembe wetland Ramsar site
Lutembe bay wetland land has been so controversial that up now, there are court cases between government and private developers.
Also called Kachindo swamp, the wetland is a Ramsar site located on the shores of Lake Victoria, 16 km along Entebbe road. The villages in the vicinity include Bwerenga, Namulanda and Dewe.
This site is the most important area for the conservation of water birds in Uganda. However, this breeding sanctuary of migratory birds is being threatened by human activity. The wetlands have been encroached by horticultural and real estate industries, flower farms and residential buildings.
Ms Naomi Karikaho, the Nema spokesperson says the agency is working on how to implement the 2014 Cabinet directive of cancelling all titles in wetland.
But as immediate response, Nema is restoring several wetlands across the country on top of carrying sensitisation of the public about the importance of these wetlands.