On Monday before Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni made his Covid-19 televised address, the country was plunged into darkness after a large land mass floated on River Nile and poured into Owen Falls Dam, in the process blocking water entering Nalubaale power station, which shut down its turbines. The president who was due to address the country at midday, postponed the address by one hour as engineers switched on reserve power to connected the country which would have missed the directives Mr Museveni keeps on issuing to protect Uganda from falling into Covid-19 nightmares seen elsewhere such as Italy, Spain, or USA.
When it emerged the load shedding was not an ordinary one, Mary Goretti Kitutu, the energy minister quickly ran to Jinja to brief the country from the ground about what had taken place. She said she was witnessing an environmental degradation disaster which would take about two weeks before the island is cleared from the dam.
Describing what she has seen, she said, the land mass came with shoes, bottles, polythene among things people throw into the water source.
Before the days of Covid-19, the biggest debate in the world was and still is, climate change.
The most industrialized countries have over the years made commitments to curb their industrial pollution, which had weighed on the planet. Rising carbon levels have become toxic to the very planet we live but the top polluters want to have their cake and eat it too.
When mother earth attacked us from the air, Covid-19 outbreak has forced us indoors, shutting down factories. Wonders are happening. Carbon levels have dropped. Mother earth is breathing. In India, reports show that locals are seeing Himalayas mountain ranges for the first time in decades. Some of the most polluted cities in the world such as Beijing and New York are reporting relief and breathing again.
I am sure the ice in the north and south poles are benefitting from this break.
In East Africa, Covid-19 is not the only problem we are faced with. Locusts have invaded our territories. The corruption and greed saw government officials tell lots of lies to eat the money set aside to control locusts from destroying food. Of course, hunger and famine could descend on the populations witnessing the locust invasion as those meant to fight the insects hide in their homes to avoid Covid-19 infections.
Locusts have attacked on the land, just as Covid-19 invades us from the air.
But that is not over. Our lakes too have turned against us.
Whereas we are not seeing too many rains, the truth of the matter is that water tables have risen. If you see the force of the water uprooting a land mass and push it downstream, then you know worse is going happen. Soon it will not take government officials to tell fishermen not to go into the waters. They will keep away themselves. Lakes and rivers are going to be dangerous. Water animals such as crocodiles and hippos are going to change their positions in the waters, which will see them invade human territories. This is going to affect movement on water, and also, hit fish factories.
Yet again, it is affecting more livelihoods. In real estate and hospitality, it has been a big prize to get land facing the lake or river. Beautiful homes, hotels and beaches have been built on shores of Lake Victoria, and banks of River Nile.
In the past weeks, images of water flooding into five-star Speke Resort Munyonyo and Lake Victoria Serena Hotel Kigo, are just a tip of the iceberg.
Mother nature is reclaiming its space from our invasion. And the good thing we know where we went wrong. For long we have only postponed what we are supposed to. We feared slowing down our economies over protection of the very life we depend on. We are now paying heavily for it.
What do we have to do?
We live on this planet, earth. For it to be health, it needs it balanced eco system. Its land, water, air, forests, mountains, ice glaciers, swamps, name it, are necessary. You would call them “essential” is today’s speak. But more than essential, they are the very pillars this earth lives. We should not cross the line.
The earth gives food in the seas, plants and animals, are all there for us to enjoy. But we should not live at the expense of planet. What we are experiencing is only a warning. Worse can happen if we continue to create imbalance in nature.
Just like governments have moved firmed to lockdown their countries and enforce the lockdowns and people in quarantine, it is the same firmness that should be employed to prevent and reign in those who destroy the environment. The same restrain when keeping social distance should be used to keep distance from swamps, forests like Amazon in Latin America, or our Mabira here which we have cut to grow sugarcane. Those who pollute rivers and lakes should be heavily fined. We must guard our environmental health jealously. And that is how the planet in return will protect us. When everything is in balance.
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