Leaders pile pressure on government to walk the talk against environmental degradation 

Local leaders in Luweero have pilled pressure on government agencies to walk the talk and act against those degrading the environment.

Over the weekendy, Uganda joined the rest of the World to commemorate World Environment Day under the theme “Only One Earth, Conserve Life”.

Speaking during the national celebrations held at Kasana playground in Luweero town council on Sunday, the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority Dr. Barirenga Akankwasa, said despite the fact that major strides have been made in conserving the environment, there are still severe challenges that need to be reversed. He listed some of the challenges as pressure on wetland and forest cover due to the demand for agricultural land, charcoal, firewood, and building materials.

Barirenga noted that the wetland cover has declined from 15.5% in 1994 to 13% in 2020 of which, only 8% remains intact. He also cited increasing air pollution, especially in urban areas due to road transport and industrial activities. On water resources, Barirenga noted that the situation is not rosy either because the total renewable surface water resources have declined from 66.6 cubic kilometers in 1995 to only 43.3 cubic kilometers, which indicates that the country is heading to water scarcity.

He revealed that the government has developed a ten-year environment restoration plan and once it’s funded, the degradation in all sectors will stop.

However, both the local leaders and Members of Parliament in Luwero criticized the government agencies including NEMA, the Police, and the Ministry of Environment and Water for failing to act against violators of the environment.

Mariam Kaberuka, the Luweero Deputy Resident District Commissioner, said that they can’t do much to stop the environmental degradation because some violators possess permits from NEMA. Kaberuka tasked NEMA to explain how investors and other individuals acquire permits in wetlands yet the resource cover is on the decline.

Erastus Kibirango, the LC 5 Chairperson of Luweero district asked the government agencies to stop organizing celebrations but put much emphasis on enforcing environmental laws. Kibirango said that over 7,000 people have settled in Lwajaali wetland in Luweero district but the technical people can’t evict them due to the lack of resources. Kibirango added that there is no goodwill from other agencies to evict the encroachers making environment conservation a mere talk at functions.

Robert Ssekitoleko, the Bamunanika County Member of Parliament, said that although President Yoweri Museveni pronounced himself on environmental degradation, he has not acted against the violators as he does when it comes to other threats.

Alfred Okidi, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Environment, says that although World Environment Day has been celebrated since 1973, the country is in a worse situation compared to back then, adding that there is a need to make things happen differently.

Okidi asked the local leaders to stop the blame game and get involved by passing environmental ordinances in districts and stop condoning people who degrade the environment within communities. Okidi also warned Chief Administrative Officers and Sub-county chiefs that they may lose their jobs if they don’t conserve the environment.

Elsie Attafuah, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme, who represented the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda, said the World is facing a climate change crisis, saying there is need to go into the emergence mode so as to fight against environmental degradation.

Attafuah said that environmental issues are seen as peripherals but they should be treated as core because a number of sectors are dependent on them. She asked the government to allocate enough funds to the environment and the Private sector to stop treating environmental programs as corporate social responsibility events.

The State Minister For Water Aisha Ssekindi said that although they have the power to act, some government officials don’t enforce environmental laws because they fear losing their jobs and votes. Ssekindi said that the President’s directive is clear that anybody who encroaches on a wetland and other natural resources should be evicted even if they are his relatives.

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