6 June 2006

Uganda: Desertification Levels Alarming, Says Nema Director

Kampala — THE National Environment Management Authority has expressed concern that the mostly green East African country risks becoming a desert if the current rate of environmental degradation is not curtailed.

Dr Aryamanya Mugisha, the executive director of Nema says wetlands, lakes, rivers, mountains and forests in the country are being degraded to alarming levels. Mugisha was on Sunday speaking in an interview ahead of celebrations to mark the International Wetlands day that took place in Kumi yesterday under the theme "Protect dry lands against desertification".

He said people are continuing to build in wetlands, thereby destroying important water catchment areas.

He said degradation was the main reason behind the reduction of water levels on Lake Victoria, that had led to hydro-electricity shortage in Uganda. "Many people think that the reduction in water levels at Lake Victoria is due to more water being churned out of the lake. This is not correct. The water in the lake has reduced because of environmental degradation and climatic changes," he said.

He said that while Nema and the government are making many attempts to stop the degradation, there is a cycle of factors that keeps the degradation going on. "For example lack of affordable electric power is increasing use of charcoal. This means more trees are being cut to provide charcoal energy. This also means more land is becoming bare and thus degraded," Mugisha said.

Mr Stephen Muwaya, a desertification control said the looming desertification poses a high economic cost on the country.

He said some studies have shown Uganda loses an estimated $400 million due to environmental degradation and its effects.

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