The Monitor (Kampala)

9 September 2006

Uganda: WB Warns On Environment Danger

Kampala — THE World Bank has warned of grave risks to poor countries' long-term economic growth and poverty reduction efforts if environmental concerns are not taken care of.

A new report titled: "Managing Climate Risk-Integrating Adaptation into World Bank Group Operations," released on August 29, paints a dark picture of the future of poor countries that degrade their environment, apparently in pursuit of economic prosperity.

The report calls on governments to balance the imperatives of economic prosperity with preservation of critical ecological systems if both development and environmental sustainability are to be achieved.

"Adaptation to climate change should be addressed through a climate risk management approach - that is, an ongoing process that starts with coping strategies for current climate variability, tries to anticipate changes in climate change, and seeks to evolve new coping strategies as necessary," the report reads in part.

According to the World Bank, neglect and damage of vital systems of the environment may in the end destroy the very costly economic investments that a country might want to peg its hopes on.

The government of Uganda has in the recent past given away large chunks of land in Kalangala and Mabira natural forests for palm oil and sugar production respectively, which environmental activists have said could have devastating effects on the environment and climate.

There have been suggestions that the lowering of the water levels in Lake Victoria with the resultant scaling back of hydro power production, could have been a direct consequence of environmental degradation.

The scaling back of power production has created a painful energy supply crunch that is convulsing the economy and spawning more poverty in the population.

A more perceptible and familiar example that was cited in the report is that of investments in irrigation schemes but which might turn out useless and wasteful when rainfall declines and water reservoirs dry up due to climatic changes induced by reckless environmental activities.

Other than helping the condensation process, forests are vast absorbers of the toxic carbon dioxide emitted by factories, which helps reduce its concentration in the atmosphere and allowing the heat radiated from the earth to escape into far space.

When forests are cut, all the carbon dioxide that is spewed into the atmosphere settles there, creating a heat trapping ceiling and subsequently warming the earth-the phenomenon called global warming.

"Climate variability is no longer an issue for the distant future," the WB said in a statement commenting on the report.

"During the past century, the global climate warmed by about 0.7°C because of human activities, with accompanying changes in rainfall patterns, extreme weather events, and sea levels, and another 1.4°C-5.8°C temperature rise is projected in the next hundred years."

The impacts of higher temperatures, wildly fluctuating precipitation, weather extremities, and sea level rise are already being felt and are expected to continue to intensify.

The report sasid aggressive mitigation measures of greenhouse gas emissions are crucial if long-term environmental and climatic changes are to be averted.

It said however that most of the changes projected for the coming decades can no longer be avoided.

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