By Guest Writer  

In May 2022, the ministry of water and environment launched a 10-year environmental restoration plan to restore degraded environment.

The restoration aims at planting 40million indigenous trees every year by government and its partners including civil society organizations, private sector, religious institutions and schools.

A lot of destruction has taken place countrywide for example Wetlands have declined from 15% to only 8.8% within the last 30yrs and forest cover has been dropped from 24% to 12%.

The destruction has affected wildlife, lakes and rivers through mining, encorachmmt on eco-sensitive areas for industrialization for example Bugoma forest that is being destroyed  to establish sugarcane factory and EACOP that has resulted into destruction of green vegetation and displacement of people surrounding the oil production centers .

According to NDP 111 forest and natural resources management, the main drivers of the destruction is deforestation that is aimed at charcoal production for cooking.

It should be noted that charcoal production has greatly increased especially in northern Uganda and the drivers include lack of alternative energy sources for cooking due to high electricity power tariffs that has led to about 90% of Ugandans depending on biomass for cooking.

Recently, NEMA reported that  air pollution has over the last five years continued to take a toll countrywide with urban centers registering readings 10 times above the world Health organization recommended level of 2021.

The Key sources of air pollution include transport sector, unpaved roads, burning of biomass fuels and industrial activities. To keep global warming below 1.5℃, the world must have annual greenhouse gas emission by 2030 and if it  doesn’t change or no action is taken the exposure to air pollution beyond safe guideline will increase by 50% within the decade and plastic waste flowing into aquatic system will nearly triple by 2040 which will affect livelihoods.

All these destructions have resulted into climatic changes that have resulted into prolonged drought which has resulted into water shortage, food insecurity, flooding especially in mountain slopes of Kasese and Rwenzori and has increased cases of Gender based violence in drought affected areas especially in Northern Uganda.

For example according to the study that was conducted by the office of prime minister together with UNFPA in 2017, it revealed that most of the common forms of GBV in drought affected areas are  physical which is about 38% and sexual violence at 30%.

The study says that this violence is attributed to limited productive activities during drought which results in idles with some men reportedly spending their merge incomes on drinking alcohol. The story is not different from other parts of the country whereby during dry seasons, men spend full days drinking and when they get home they begin fighting women.

Human activities have also championed environmental destruction experienced  today through encroaching on eco-sensitive areas to establish farmlands for agriculture and this has been consistently seen by people growing rice in wetlands, growing crops on river banks and to make matters worse some industries  deposit their wastes in lakes and rivers which has affected aquatic life.

In addition government hasn’t been considering environmental protection as a priority as seen in its slow response in restoring the lost green economy. Permitting some projects to operate in eco-sensitive areas have resulted into environmental destruction for example the clearance of Bugoma forest by Hoima sugar factory that has resulted into death of wildlife due to encroachment on their ecosystem, the EACOP production in Albertine region that has resulted into destruction of environment and affecting Human life among others.

All these have contributed to the climatic changes we are experiencing today. Furthermore the UN Decade on ecosystem restoration 2021-2030 was declared last year to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystem as this restoration will help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent mass extinction.

In order to fully implement the 10-year restoration plan, the government should consider environmental restoration as a priority for social economic transformation.

More funds should be allocated to NEMA to improve its supervision to eco-sensitive areas and arrest all those encroaching on forest reserves.

More emphasis should be put on renewable clean energy with emphasis on solar power to reduce on environmental destruction.

The PDM the government is implementing in 2022/2023 financial year should focus on solar powered irrigation equipment to keep farmers producing throughout the year, this will reduce on idles of men and keep them busy to reduce on Domestic violence cases in drought affected areas.

Finally it’s an individual responsibility to protect and conserve environment, and if we don’t change nature will change us.

The author is Gerald Barekye {geraldbarekye@gmail.com} Research Associate at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

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