The Government of Uganda has taken a bold step through the Ministry of Water and Environment to cancel all titles that were issued in wetlands after the year 1995.
While addressing journalists at Uganda Media centre, the Minister of Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris said; “The Government of Uganda has taken a bold step to cancel all land titles issued in wetlands after 1995.
“Fellow countrymen, You are part of the solution, and cannot afford to sit back. I urge you to be part and parcel of this effort because if we do not manage wetlands judiciously the future is not certain for the coming generations,” Cheptoris said.
About the level of degradation in wetlands, Lucy Lyango, the Assistant Commissioner Wetlands Management said they’ve moved down from 13% to 8%.
“On the level of degradation, we have moved down from 13% in 1994 to 8.9% wetland coverage in Uganda, our target is to hit 12% by 2040. On the level of wetland restoration, we’ve restored about 5,000 hectares of wetlands in different parts of the country,” said Lyango.
She added that they have cancelled close to 3,000 titles in wetlands.
“The review process has been going on and it has mostly been at a national level. We are at a stage where we are going to defy the jurisdiction of wetlands and also categorization of wetlands.
“We are going to use ecological based categorization to categorize the wetlands. The policy and the law are being done concurrently,” Lyango noted.
The government says all is not lost and that they are in close collaboration with their Partners working to reverse wetland degradation that has been rife in Uganda.
Among the strategies are the restoration of degraded areas and protection of wetlands countrywide, taking stock of the country’s wetlands, awareness and sensitization, capacity building on wetland conservation strategies, enforcement and wetland management planning.
The Ministry of water and environment will on 2nd February 2020 at Bumbaire Sub-county Headquarters, Bushenyi District Local Government commemorate World Wetlands Day which is celebrated globally. It is the date of the adoption of the Intergovernmental Treaty on Wetlands in Ramsar, in 1971.
“World Wetlands Day provides the opportunity for us to take stock of our achievements and create awareness about wetlands.
“This year’s theme; “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, reinforces the fact that wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment, and play a key role in supporting biological diversity and environment order,” Cheptoris said.
“Wetlands provide us with ecosystem services such as food and water, mitigating climate change and disease spread, nutrient recycling oxygen production, and cultural values worth USD $47 trillion annually, more than those from forests, deserts or grasslands.
“We all appreciate that wetland ecosystems are a natural resource of global and national significance since each of us has interacted at one point in our lives.
“In fact historically, their high level of plant and animal diversity is perhaps the main reason for wetland protection worldwide, supported by international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention and the International Convention on Biological Diversity,” stressed Cheptoris.
“Wetlands play important incubation processes by supporting water bird, fish, amphibian, reptile and plant species during important life stages by providing roosting, nesting and feeding habitats as well as a refuge during extreme weather conditions.
“They also form a corridor or stepping stone habitats that support the migration of water birds and marine mammals. Uganda is no exception since its wetlands are host not only to the National Bird, but also unique species such as the Shoebill and Sitatunga. It is also a flyway for many birds en route to their different roosting sites,” he added.
“There are a number of environmental and social values arising from biodiversity. Where wetlands have healthy biodiversity, they provide essential services to the environment and to communities, building species resilience, providing livelihoods for 1 billion people, feeding the world, providing and purifying water, acting as spawning and nursery grounds for fish, providing a refuge for animals in times of drought and providing recreational, cultural and, in some cases, spiritual benefits.”
“Swamp vegetation filters pollutants, making water potable and useable by people and also the life that can only survive in the wetlands.
“Peatlands which are a unique type of wetland and are found in Uganda store up to 30% of land-based carbon mitigating against increased global warming and have been known to store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined.”
He urged Ugandans to protect their environment and think after degradation.
“We need to step back and think critically about what will happen to our wetlands if the current trends of degradation are not halted.
“We also need to be mindful of human activities that degrade wetlands. We are experiencing frequent flooding and loss of property, prolonged drought, drying of springs and wells because we have degraded our wetlands. Our roads in Kampala and other major towns are frequently flooded after it has rained.”
“We must avoid cumulative impacts that undermine the capacity of wetlands to continue to support biodiversity, as well as reduce the resilience of wetlands to respond to ongoing threats and pressures, especially those of a climate change nature.”
BY FRANK SEMATA