Activists under the Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA) organization on Friday re-launched a campaign that seeks to stop the degradation of Lwera Swamp in Lukaya Town Council, Kalungu District code-named “Save Lwera from Rice Growing and sand mining”.
Speaking to journalists in Kampala, CICOA Executive Director Mr Andrew Mafundo said their campaign has been prompted by the destruction of River Katonga Bridge and Kampala -Masaka highway by floods, resulting in travel chaos which has increased costs of traveling for motorists.
He added that because of the flooding of River Katonga, traffic has now been diverted to the Mpigi Villa Maria Road which is longer by about 56km, according to the Bus Operators and Drivers’ Association thus increasing the transport fares.
“The Uganda Wetlands Atlas puts the cost of wetland destruction at nearly Shs2 billion annually, and contamination of water resources, which is partly caused by the reduced buffering capacity of wetlands near open water bodies, to nearly Shs38 billion annually. It’s against this background that Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA), has embarked on this campaign of protection of wetlands,” said Mr, Mafundo.
Mr Mafundo also noted that CICOA has previously engaged local government environment officers to explain how Lwera swamp destruction was allowed and what they are doing to stop it. “We also tasked the Ministry of Water and Environment to explain why Chinese investors were allowed to reclaim this important swamp and provide us with terms of issuance of the permit. We also engaged the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on failure to monitor the implementation of conditions issued within the permits.”
Meanwhile, this is the second campaign by CICOA fighting to save the Lwera swamp. The first one was launched in 2019, and it involved an online petition and non-online in which over 4,000 people signed.
According to Mr Mafundo, one of the major achievements from the previous campaign was that the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni while visiting the neighbouring district of Masaka, noted that he had heard about this Lwera swamp destruction by Chinese investors and ordered that the relevant ministries to stop these investors and vacate the area after the season. However, no such action has been taken.
“Meaning the presidential directive was ignored and we are instead seeing more destruction while Ugandans are paying for these irresponsible acts. Passengers using public transport from Masaka to Kampala now have to pay Shs 25,000- Shs30,000, up from Shs15,000 (according to today’s Daily Monitor). Which is absurd. I urge all Ugandans to act now and save our environment or face even worse forms of the wrath of Mother Nature,” added Mr Mafundo.
Mr Mafundo explained that Wetlands and Forests are important resources for regulating climatic conditions, erosion prevention, moderation of extreme flows, sediment traps, soil formation, and maintenance of water tables in surrounding lands, and acting as centres of biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
“They are also sources of wood, timber and other construction materials, food, medicines, water supply, fisheries, dry-season grazing for livestock, nutrient and toxin, tourism, recreational and spiritual functions, and promote aesthetic beauty of the area. Unfortunately, these resources are on the decline in many parts of Uganda,” said Mr Mafundo.
Current data shows that the national area of wetlands has declined by 30 per cent between 1994 and 2008. And although between 2008 and 2014, there was an increase in areas under wetlands, this was only by 0.03 per cent from 26,307 km2 in 2008 to 26,315 km2 in 2014.
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