|Anyau wetland in Westnile region.|
The National Environment Act, Cap 153 under Section2 defines wetlands as areas permanently or seasonally flooded by water where plants and animals have become adopted. However wet lands can also be defined as areas of marsh ,fen, peat land or water whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary ,with water that is static or flowing fresh, brackish or salt, including marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 meters (Ramsar 1971).
Back in the days when wetlands were readily available and accessible, every household was health and would not bather going to the market and shops looking for chairs because they knew the importance of wetlands. They would rather weave mats, baskets, hats, houses, bags among others which saved most of us from unnecessary spending.
With economic transition all things became commercialized and wetlands products became of more value than before and are now on every market hence providing jobs to many. Worth noting also these wetlands attract tourist’s hence promoting development and government revenues increase, protect our water resources through purification, and provide pasture animals during dry seasons and support fishing industry.
Despite all the importance of wetlands to the economy and having government ratified ramzar convention in 1988, the coverage of wetlands in Uganda is declining at high rate. According to Uganda wetlands atlas, wetlands coverage was in 2008 recorded at approximately 10.9% of the country’s total land surface area compared to 15.6% in 1994 approximately 6% decline. According to NEMA Uganda, current wetland coverage estimates put the total area at 33,000 Km2 covering about 13% of the country’s total area.
The decline in wetland coverage is attributed to ever increasing demand for food, firewood, water resource, and settlement and greedy from people that has accelerated encroachment on such resources both by industries and individual persons for their selfish interests.
Note that, Wetlands can only perform their responsibilities only when they are managed with care as the national theme states “restore wetlands restore hope”. I therefore call on Government to take up her responsibility of keeping our wetlands intact if we are to reduce on government borrowing and achieve vision 2040 and National Development Plan.
Time is now for government to act through demarcating and protecting the remaining wetlands and also review and enforce laws and policies on wetlands.
Treat waste water and remove pollutants from storm runoffs before the water enters our lakes, and play a critical role in ensuring the continuous re-charge of our ground water sources. Wetlands are therefore backbones of our environment and their health is therefore crucial to our very existence.
By Peninah Atwine
EMLI Bwaise Facility