Uganda govt approves Shs 5.5b to battle water-related disasters

Uganda govt approves Shs 5.5b to battle water-related disasters
In May 2020 Rwangara in Ntoroko where Lake Albert burst its banks and inundated almost the entire fishing village.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The cabinet has allocated a total of 5.5 billion shillings for the construction of gabions in selected areas along Lake Victoria to mitigate the impact of rising water levels.

This initiative aims to safeguard infrastructure like roads from the impact of rising water levels in Lake Victoria, which have reached a record high of up to 13.66 meters. The government has expressed concern about this unprecedented situation.

Minister for Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris, revealed this information while addressing journalists ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, 2024. He stated that the cabinet approved this intervention resolution during its meeting on Monday 12, May 2024.

Cheptoris presented a status report on the rising water levels in various bodies of water across the country, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the situation.

According to Cheptoris, constructing gabions is the immediate measure recommended by the cabinet.

Additionally, intermediate and long-term interventions have been approved, which will be implemented gradually as funding becomes available, starting from the next financial year. However, the construction of gabions will commence immediately due to the anticipation of further rainfall.

Cheptoris explained that the rising water levels in Lake Victoria are primarily attributed to the inflow of water from outside Uganda. The lake receives water from over 23 rivers originating from countries experiencing El Niño rains.

“When the water levels increase, we are forced to release more water from Jinja to stabilize and balance the lake and downstream. At the moment, we are releasing 2600 cubic meters per second, and this is another way of ensuring that we don’t damage our dams,” he stated.

He further advised communities residing near water bodies to exercise caution and adhere to environmental regulations. These laws stipulate a buffer zone of up to 100 meters from a lakeshore and 50 meters from a riverbank. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of refraining from encroaching on wetlands.

“I want to appeal to Ugandans to come to their senses and respect nature before it is too late,” he said.

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Akankwasa Barirega, the Executive Director of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), echoed the minister’s remarks, emphasizing that Ugandans should willingly comply with the law before facing the consequences.

He warned that if voluntary compliance is not achieved, the government will enforce the regulations. Barirega mentioned that NEMA’s enforcement operations against wetland encroachment are ongoing nationwide, with the authority currently handling 131 court cases resulting from these operations.

“Every day, our men are in the field trying to evict those who have refused to go voluntarily because those who go voluntarily save on time and losses. We do not need to police every inch of wetland in this country. What we mostly desire is the mindset change for the people to protect the common good,” he added.

Barirega disclosed that NEMA has initiated the process to revoke approximately 10,000 land title certificates granted in wetlands and central forest reserves. Of these, 3,000 were addressed last year, with the remaining 7,000 tackled in 2012, although the pace of the process needs acceleration.

Regarding the establishment of the Environmental Protection Force as stipulated in section 25 of the National Environment Act, Barirega stated that the initiative began in July of the previous year. However, only 40 individuals out of the required 2,000 have been recruited thus far. He mentioned that recruitment will continue as long as funding permits, and currently, the operations are supported by other forces.

The World Environment Day celebrations are scheduled to take place in Sironko district, with President Museveni expected to officiate the event.