KAMPALA, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) –– As the world marks World Wetlands Day Thursday, Uganda said its tough measures on the protection of the environment have started yielding positive results.
The global theme for the commemoration is “It’s time for Wetland Restoration” while the national theme is “Wetland Restoration for People and Nature.”
Minister of State for Environment Beatrice Anywar said in a statement issued in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Thursday that Uganda is now restoring some degraded wetlands with the various measures put in place.
“Wetlands in Uganda registered a decline in coverage from 15.6 percent in 1994 to 13 percent in 2015. Only 8.9 percent of the 13 percent was intact and over 4.1 percent degraded,” she said.
“Government put in place several efforts to ensure that the 4.1 percent is restored. I am happy to note that because of these vigorous efforts, we are beginning to see a positive trend with the intact wetland coverage now at 9.3 percent.”
This has been possible because of the government’s decision to put in place the Environment Protection Police Unit as well as the decision to cancel all land titles in wetlands, according to the official.
“Another decision was made to halt any further issuance of permits in wetlands,” she said, noting that the country’s President Yoweri Museveni on several occasions has urged the public to stop further encroachment and asked for punishment of the culprits. Other measures that have also been instituted by the government include wetland restoration programs, demarcation of wetland boundaries, development of management plans for wetlands, and massive public awareness programs.
“We must congratulate ourselves for the mileage reached so far, however, we need to double our efforts because of the rampant degradation still taking place, especially in urban areas,” the official said. She enumerated the benefits of restoring wetlands such as increasing biological biodiversity, replenishing and supplying water, carbon storage, flood and stormwater control, ecotourism and improved livelihood.
At a public rally on Jan. 27, President Museveni said forests, wetlands, riverbanks, lake shores, and hilltops were crucial for survival.
“We need water and clean air. Both of them come from the wetlands and forests. You cannot say that you are a patriot of Uganda, but you damage our wetlands, our forests, our riverbanks, our lake shores, our steep gradients, on which our livelihoods depend,” Museveni said.
“You are an enemy when you damage these. Forty percent of our rain comes from these forests and wetlands.”