24 August 2017

Uganda: Leaders Ask Government to Take Full Charge of Wetlands

Kanungu — Leaders in Kanungu District, one of the areas facing severe food shortage, have appealed to government to curb environment degradation.

The leaders contend that without government intervention on environmental issues, individuals will keep degrading wetlands leading to drought, food shortage and other adverse effects.

The call was made during Kanungu District stakeholders meeting on environment management and restoration of degraded ecosystems earlier last week.

The meeting that was held at the district council hall, was convened by area local and religious leaders led by Kinkizi Diocese Bishop, Dan Zoreka, to exchange views and form partnerships for ensuring food security and environment protection.

Bishop Zoreka said there is much trading of blame for the recurrent drought that has led to withering of crops and drying up of water sources.

He blamed government which he said wield a lot of power under National Environment Act but has failed to exercise it.

The Act under section 36 states: "No person shall reclaim or drain any wetland, erect, construct, place, alter, extend, remove or demolish any structure that is fixed in, on, under or over any wetland."

It also states: "No person is allowed to disturb any wetland by drilling or tunnelling in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland; deposit in, on or under any wetland any substance in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland."

Despite having laws in place to protect the wetlands, this has not been realised.

Mr Jeconeous Musingwire, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) official in south-western sub-region, blamed lack of enforcement on insufficient funding to the agencies mandated to do the work. However, Mr Zoreka said the law has been applied but discriminatively. He added that counter accusations have also contributed to the current state of environment degradation.

"Let us change from blame game to action. This thing of blaming each other over an issue we all know is affecting us and is taking us nowhere. When it comes to enforcement of the law, let it apply without discrimination," Bishop Zoreka said.

He added: "If it is the bishop degrading the wetland, the law must apply. If it is the minister, the law must apply as well. We must ensure that the law is not bent anywhere irrespective of one's status because the consequences affect us all."

He urged all leaders to take lead in conserving the environment as a way of leading by example.

"We have not played our role very well as leaders. I am requesting all leaders irrespective of the level, let us walk the talk because in most cases leaders talk about conservation but when you check, they are the ones destroying the environment," he said.

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