Environmental Economists from the Environment for Development (EfD-Mak) Centre on Thursday 20th February 2020 conducted a policy tour to Mukono District Local Government headquarters where they a had a dialogue with Councilors on how natural resources were being managed in the district.
The purpose was to discuss the status of the environment and natural resources in the district and debate how to accelerate economic growth while preserving the environment
Over 80 participants including the Resident District Commissioner, LC5 Chairman, Chief Administrative Officers, District Natural Resources’ Officers and officials from the Environmental Police unit converged at the District Administrative Hall where they deliberated on the status, challenges in the management of Natural resources and possible solutions to mitigate degradation.
While officially opening the dialogue, the Secretary for Production, Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Faisal Kigongo Luggya thanked Makerere University for championing the move to protect the environment and conducting research on Natural resources to guide policy formulation.
Kigongo described the university initiative to dialogue with local councilors as a healthy move in cementing the relationship with communities and raising awareness on the collective responsibility to protecting natural resources.
He observed that despite the fact that many policies in Africa are based on evidence based research, there was continuing depletion of the environment and natural resources calling on researchers to engage policy makers on the consequences, law enforcement and alternative livelihood options.
“Policy makers should come up to enforce the law and that is the assurance people need. The ozone layer is affected by the people for instance it is in Uganda where old motor vehicles are imported and substandard factories built.
In Uganda 60% of the developments are based in wetlands and forests. We talk of protecting the forests but how affordable is solar or electricity.? Researchers should offer technologies for alternative sources of energy if the environment is to be conserved”, Faisal Kigongo noted.
Mukono Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Fred Bamwine noted that although a lot is known about environmental protection, very little is practiced. Bamwine hailed Makerere University for being a hub of knowledge for good practices.
The RDC asked Makerere University to engage policy makers to prioritize the environment noting that the pollution levels arising from old imported vehicles should be a matter of concern.
Bamwine was critical of Democracy and Human Rights in the development of a country especially where the two are cherished rather than guided, adding that they, aid environmental degradation.
“You have democratized everything. Someone is building in a wetland and cutting trees, you talk of human rights, protection of people and our voters. Democracy and human rights should not be absolute. China and Malaysia were once poor like Uganda. How did they bypass us? We can copy and paste certain practices,” said the RDC
He said all stakeholders must focus on protecting environment on grounds that agriculture, education, churches and other aspects of life thrive on it.
He thanked the university for choosing Mukono district for the dialogue pledging the districts’ support in research and related activities. He also asked the university to provide feedback on the research output.
“Count on me as an ardent ally on this move. We are fully committed to support Makerere University to do research because the President and the Constitution of Uganda is clear on this. As Makerere University you should help and lead the struggle to protect the environment. Research and report findings that without deterrent punishments the country is heading for disaster” The RDC stated.
The District Chairman Local Council V Andrew Ssenyonga said Mukono is one of the historically privileged districts of Uganda where Sir Winston Churhill after observing her green environment named Uganda, – “the Pearl of Africa”. The green and beautiful environment he said, was no longer the case.
Ssenyonga blamed the massive destruction of the environment and other natural resources in the district to the governance system where natural resources were centralized to be overseen by national authorities.
“Unlike olden days when management of natural resources were decentralized and overseen by Local governments, natural resources were given to authorities like NFA and NEMA to hold them in trust and these authorities have become agents of depletion for personal benefits.
NFA and NEMA compared to Local governments lack adequate personnel to service and protect natural resoursces. 6.8 SQM of Namyoyo Forest reserve has been destroyed”, Senyonga stated.
The Chairman expressed worry of the impending calamities in the district especially at Mbalala where wetlands and hills have been invaded for construction and stone quarrying.
“I’m worried of Tyang Tyang factory, Seeta High where 4m of the trees are sunk in water. Time will come when the whole Mbalala is sunk in water. Stone quarrying in the same area is worrying” He added.
The Chairman also noted that Mukono which had admirable environment was no more but experiencing erratic rains that come with destruction.
He also said much of the central government budget is channeled to authorities instead of the District Natural Resources Office yet this can do a lot in protecting the environment as they themselves know and derive their livelihoods on these resources.
“Lake Victoria was a responsibility of Local governments but was taken to the centre and has been mismanaged. Local governments had an LC system that would monitor activities on the lake at different levels.
University experts help us to assess whether the centralization of the management of natural resources has led to more good than harm and whether it is worth to compensate for any loss”, Ssenyonga implored.
In his key note address, the District Natural Resources Officer, William Mujuni said the vision of the department is to have an ecologically stable district and economically prosperous population while the Mission is to ensure sustainable management and utilization of the district natural resources.
Mujuni said the objective of the department is to ensure sustainable utilization/management of wetlands for ecological/health services and economic functions; maintain and safeguard enough forestland and manage it effectively so as to optimize economic and environmental benefits to the district and the country at large.
Highlighting the land cover change in the district, Mujuni reported increasing pressure on land cover over the years with broadleaved tree plantations increasing from 4.22 SQKM in 1995 to 20.10 SQKM in 2015 while the coniferous forests which occupied on 0.18 SQKM in 1995 occupied 3.34 SQKM in 2015.Mujuni also reported an increase of the built-up area (of 8.63 SQKM in 1995 to 81.11 SQKM in 2015.
The Natural Resources officer also said between 1995 and 2015 the district had recorded a depletion of Tropical High Forest (from 160 to 50 SQKM), Grasslands (142-83sqkm), Tropical high forests well stocked 9261-127sqkm) among other land cover changes.
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