7 July 2010

Uganda: Forest Cover, Wetlands Vanishing

Kampala — Uganda's population hit the 33 million mark in 2010.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) warns that the country's environment is in danger. as much of its forest cover and wetlands could soon disappear.

The dramatic reduction of the forest cover in Kibaale district perhaps demonstrates the impact the high population is having on nature.

In 1990, Kibaale had about 114,000 hectares of forest cover with a population of about 220,300 people. But by 2005, its forest cover had fallen to about 58,300 hectares with a population of about 413,000 people due to migration.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics warns that if the population growth of Kibaale remains unchecked in the next 10-15 years, the forest cover in Kibaale will be reduced to 2,433 hectares.

NEMA's State of Uganda Environment 2009 report showed that forests are facing a serious threat from the rising population. About 1.2m hectares of forest cover was lost between 1990 and 2005.

The country's forest cover was 5,000,000 hectares in 1990 but by 2005, it had reduced to 3.5 million hectares. The most affected districts are Mayuge, Wakiso, Mubende, Mityana and Kibaale.

The high deforestation is due to the huge demand for fuel (99% of Uganda's population use charcoal or firewood).

According to NEMA, the annual consumption of wood is about 33 million tonnes.

Wetlands are also endangered. At least 7% of the original wetland area of Uganda has been converted to agriculture and human settlement.

Aryamanya Mugisha of NEMA says fish stocks are facing extinction.

He says whereas the sustainable fishing rate should be 350,000 tonnes per year, by 2005, the country harvests 416,000 tonnes.

Mugisha says Uganda is using its natural resources in an unsustainable way.

"This trend will have a negative effect on the economic, social and environmental development. Poverty will increase and more resources destroyed," says Mugisha.

Dr. Kepha Nantulya, an environmental consultant with Green World-Uganda says the Government should reduce fertility rates through family planning.

"We should have manageable population otherwise providing health care, education and environment will be difficult," he explains.

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