In a bid to restore River Kafu wetland, the state agency charged with environmental monitoring, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in conjunction with the Ministry of Water and Environment have started demarcating the boundaries. NEMA have also given the encroachers on the wetland a one-month ultimatum to vacate.
In their efforts, NEMA and the ministry believe the work of Community Green Radio can be handy in community mobilizations.
While in his recent tour to sensitize Kiyanja wetland encroachers, Nicholas Magara, the Regional Wetlands Coordinator for Central Region said radio is essential if the wetland is to be reclaimed to its full capacity. He thus called upon Community Green Radio to partner with them to sensitize communities on the need to conserve the wetlands.
“As a radio we need to intensify sensitization so that people understand the importance of wetlands and stop encroaching on it,” he explained.
James Kunobere, who led a team from NEMA in sensitizing residents and local leaders along River Kafu wetland in January, said the wetland has been degraded by cultivation and planting Eucalyptus trees that drain wetlands.
“People are growing rice and other crops in the wetland but the Eucalyptus trees are doing more harm since it is drying up the wetland. People prefer planting trees in the wetland to grow quickly for commercial purposes yet it is more dangerous,” Kunobere explained.
River Kafu Wetland system covers 10 districts that include Kakumiro, Hoima, Kyankwanzi, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Mubende, Kasanda, Luweero, Nakaseke and Nakasongola.
NEMA and the Ministry have embarked on sensitizing the encroachers as they give them time to harvest crops and cut down trees after which they will be expected to vacate the wetland.
Section 36 of the National Environment Act provides for protection of wetlands and prohibits any person from reclaiming, erecting or demolishing any structure that is fixed in, on, under or above any wetland.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at National Association of Professional Environmentalists notes that Eucalyptus trees are not good for environment since they consume too much water. He notes that even encroachers who are cultivating in the wetlands use chemicals that are not good for aquatic life.
Mr. Bwengye believes that collective responsibility is needed to conserve the environment and advises communities to embark on growing indigenous tree species that encourage agro forestry.
Wetlands play critical role of filtering, retaining and controlling floods as well as influencing rainfall formation.
To raise awareness on the value of wetlands, World Wetlands Day is held every year on 2nd February.
STORY COMPILED BYEDISON NDYASIIMA