September 3, 2014
Environmentalists in Uganda have accused politicians in the country of preferring votes to conservation of wetlands.
They say politicians only caring about votes and do not support campaigns to evict wetland encroachers because they fear to lose votes in areas where evictions take place.
Wetlands are a reservoir of biodiversity. They act as a water purification system and help to control floods. Wetlands such as marshes, swamps, peat bogs, river deltas, tundra, mangroves, river flood plains, and lagoons cover about 11 per cent of Uganda.
Latest figures indicate that wetland destruction costs Uganda about two billion shillings a year while contamination of water resources costs Uganda about 38 billion shillings annually.
In the southwestern district of Kabale, 90 percent of wetlands there have been reclaimed. This is according to Joseph Tushabe, the District Environment Officer.
He says they were reclaimed to pave way for agriculture activities such as dairy farming, forestry and tea growing.
Tushabe notes that by 1970 all wetlands in the district were still intact but within the next five years they will be no more.
“Politicians are a problem in managing the environment, they feed the President and the local people on wrong information,” Tushabe notes.
Mary Jude, the Lwengo District Environment Officer laments that every time they evict people from wetlands, politicians urge them to return.
“We evict people from wetlands but politicians tell them to go back and plant,” Mary laments.
The environment officers were speaking at Katungu mothers’ union centre in Bushenyi town during a function to reward 10 people for their role in conserving the Grey crowned Crane as a result of protecting wetlands which are their habitats. The Grey crowned Crane is Uganda’s national bird.
Benon Karyaija, the Mitooma District Chairperson agrees with the environmentalists but petitions them to implore government to lay stringent measures that would help households in the country to generate increased income so that they don’t depend on wetlands for survival.
Naboth Baguma, Mitooma District Environment Officer says unless political leaders realize the importance of conserving environment, government’s programs on food security will not succeed.
Speaking during the same occasion, Jimmy Muheebwa from Nature Uganda who is also the Whitley fund for nature award winner highlighted the need to sensitize people on the importance of wetlands and other natural resources in a move to breed generations that are nature friendly.