23 March 2014

Uganda: Water Is the Source of Life


Friday March 21, was World Forestry day. Saturday March 22, was World Water day. Sunday March 22, was World Meteorology day.

The three days are marked in quick succession because they are interrelated. One key element that glues them all together is water, and as the saying goes, water is life. Without water there are no forests and without forests there is no water.

Until last week when the rains started, farmers across the country had been complaining and livestock were dying in large numbers as a result of the prolonged dry season. With changing climate patterns, such misfortune will continue to happen. In fact, it's bound to get worse as Uganda's forest cover that would otherwise have been relied on for rains continues to suffer unprecedented depletion.

According to a 2008 National Environment Management Authority (Nema) report, Uganda's forest cover reduced from five million hectares in 1990 to 3.5 million by 2005. At this pace, Uganda will be without forests a couple of decades to come.

Fortunately, what needs to be done is not rocket science. Rapid deforestation must be arrested while afforestation efforts are stepped up. More so, electricity must replace firewood as the fuel of choice.

Besides, Uganda needs to mitigate the prolonged dry spells by reducing reliance on rainfall. Depending on nature for agriculture is no longer sustainable. Water harvesting and storage methods, as well as irrigation systems are of paramount importance if the country is to uphold sustainable exploitation of her water and environment resources.

Agriculture aside, access to clean water is a critical public health concern. According to the ministry of Water, and Environment, access to clean water in urban areas was at 70% as of June 2013, while it was at 64% in rural areas.

This is not good enough, as it means 36% of rural people have to walk more than a kilometre to reach a water source. Obviously much more needs to be done.

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