President Museveni has said that one problem that has been rampant in Uganda is the damage of the environment by invading forests, encroaching on the wetlands, damaging the River banks and destroying the vegetation protecting the Lake shores.
A recent 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 than 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.
In his inaugural cabinet speech, the president ordered that this practice must stop and where the ecology demands it, the encroachers, using persuasive and educative ways, should be made to vacate.
‘‘If necessary, some more land should be purchased from the private owners to increase the forest cover. I normally see Islands of settlements inside the Mabira Forest. Why can’t the Government persuade them to sell to the Government so that the forest becomes one continuous mass like the Bwindi and the Imaramagaambo forests?’’ the president said.
The president wondered could have happened to the 200 metre belt scheme, from the beach of the Lakes inwards, of undisturbed vegetation cover or forest that would help to filter soil from being washed into the lakes to cause pollution and silting.
‘‘What happened to that plan? The Minister should review the issue of the protection of the Lake shore.’’ Some rivers across the country have dried up because the banks have been destroyed.
The president told the cabinet that our great grandchildren will curse us for these mistakes.
‘ ‘To clean the environment even more, the Kampala Capital City Authority should quickly license investors that have been seeking to recycle garbage, recycle polythene bags and plastics and, more recently, to recycle E-waste (old batteries, old TV sets, old computers, old mobile phones, etc.). This, together with the protection and expansion of forests and protection of the wetlands, will safe-guard our environment, at least, locally. We shall, then, remain with the global problems of greenhouse gases etc. that are being handled under the Kyoto Protocols. There is a Scientist called Mafabi and his group. They told me that by allowing the wetlands to be dried up, we may destroy 40% of Uganda’s rainfall per annum. They told me that, for instance, the difference between West Nile and Karamoja, in terms of the rainfall the two areas get, is that West Nile benefits from the swamps of South Sudan and the forests of Congo, being on the same latitude notwithstanding. West Nile gets between 1350-1500mm of rain per annum while Karamoja only gets 808mm of rain per annum.’’
The president noted that now that government is serious with agriculture, swamps and down-stream must be protected for irrigation.