COVID-19 pandemic pushes people into wetlands

By Chris Mugasha

As Uganda joined the rest of the World to mark World Wetlands Day, environmentalists have called upon government to gazette wetlands.

The Bushenyi/Ishaka Municipality Senior environment officer Abbot Mwebaze said cases of people encroaching on wetlands are on increase.

He attributed the encroachment on wetlands to COVID-19 pandemic especially explaining that when the situation got tough, some parents sent their children to wetlands to seek for survival.

He said COVID pushed people into wetlands to carry out a number of activities including agriculture and mining.

Mwebaze said out of the wetlands that the Municipality is endowed with, only two are gazette officially. These are Nyaruzinga and Kajurigo wetlands. Others like Mazinga, Ihwera-Ruharo, Katarimwa, St.Kagwa among others remain un-gazette.

Caption; A man looks at an uprooted wetland.

Mwebaze said if such wetlands were clearly marked, it would make enforcement easier. He however said they have already made consents with about 40 people in Ruharo ward to vacate a wetland.

According to Mwebaze lack of funding for such a critical resource has made it difficult for them to implement a number of activities especially sensitization and enforcement. The Municipality has about 17-20 square kilometers of wetland. The National Water and Sewerage Co-operation (NWSC) draws its water from these wetlands which it supplies to residents at a cost.

Caption: These Crested Cranes were seen stranded in Kyamuhunga Town council, Bushenyi district after their ‘home’ was destroyed by man’s activities.

Wetlands reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They also provide a natural habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Others perceive wetlands as “biological supermarkets” as they provide great volumes of food that attract many animal species.

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