Uganda: Impunity Frustrating Efforts to Protect Lakes, Swamps - Experts

As water levels in lakes and rivers across the country continue to rise, threatening the livelihood of many people as they submerge businesses and residences, experts are concerned over impunity which they say is frustrating environmental protection efforts.

Mr Paddy Kakumba, the deputy secretary general Lake Victoria Region Local Authorities Cooperation (LVRLAC), Uganda Chapter says the encroachers should respect the laws of the land if the environment is to be conserved for the future generation to benefit.

"Any developments affected have been as a result of encroachment on the protection zones. The effects in the water levels rise have been catalyzed by human activities like wetland encroachment, degradation of the environment through practices like deforestation, intrusion on the Lake Shoreline and river banks, poor farming practices as well as unplanned urbanization," he said.

He however, noted that the water rise has not gone beyond the recommended shoreline protected zone of 200 meters or 30 meters for the wetlands.

He appealed to partners join hands in buffering the shoreline and buffer zones of the lake, rivers and wetlands.

"Relevant government agencies should evict all encroachers living within 100 meters of river banks, 30 meters of wetlands and 200 meters of lake shores and in government forest land and we hope the directive will not be frustrated by impunity as it has been the case in most of the previous efforts targeted towards protecting the shore line," Mr Kakumba said.

He further said LVRLAC will continue to use its platform, working with the relevant government agencies and ministries, to sensitize the local authorities and the communities about the need to protect, conserve and sustainably utilize Lake Victoria resources.

Mr Stephen Ssebuliba, the country's project coordinator said there has been lack of coordination between the technical arm and politicians because they don't understand the laws regarding environment.

"Everything is technical and therefore, we want to work hand in hand with them so that they understand these laws. They shouldn't just go to community looking for votes but to show them the impact of environment degradation. We have come up with some mitigation measures like adaptation strategies. These have to be participatory and recognized by the respective government departments and authorities," he said.

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