Why are the President’s directives not having desired effect on wetlands?

According to the 2019 wetland status report by Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda’s wetland coverage has declined from 15.6% in 1994 to 8.9% in 2019. H.E President Museveni has issued several directives to wetland encroachers to vacate these sensitive ecosystems, however, these have not achieved the desired effect. Encroachment on wetlands has long been a pressing issue, often driven by the need for agricultural land, urban expansion and industrialization among others.

Wetlands are not just beautiful landscapes, they provide numerous benefits to both humans and the environment. While the implementation of the President’s orders may not have yielded immediate results, we believe that wetland management is a multifaceted task that requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders, including government agencies, local communities, and environmental organizations.

It is possible that not everyone is fully aware of the importance of wetlands and the negative consequences of encroachment. Raising awareness and educating both adults and children about the ecological value and benefits of wetlands is key to securing their protection. ‘We believe that an informed society is more likely to support conservation initiatives and actively participate in safeguarding these ecosystems’ noted Achilles Byaruhanga, ED – NatureUganda.

Wetlands play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of numerous communities. These communities depend on wetlands for essential resources like water, materials, food, and income. The presence of industries in wetlands can be attributed to various factors, including the scarcity of land for industrial development and the economic benefits associated with wetlands, such as access to water resources for industrial processes. However, it is unfortunate that at times, the ecological significance of wetlands is overlooked.

Enforcement of regulations and penalties for non-compliance are crucial for ensuring compliance with the directives. If there are loopholes in the enforcement mechanisms or if penalties are not stringent enough, it becomes easier for people to ignore or bypass the regulations.

Protecting wetlands requires collective efforts from all stakeholders, including government bodies, local communities, NGOs, and businesses. Strengthening collaboration and involving all relevant parties in decision-making processes can lead to more effective outcomes.

Accurate data and scientific research play a vital role in effective wetland conservation. For the last 30 years, NU has been consistently monitoring biodiversity of wetlands using birds as surrogates to assess wetland health, biodiversity, and ecological processes and the data collected has been a major contributor of key information for the designation of ten out of Uganda’s twelve Ramsar sites.  By collaborating with academic institutions, government agencies, and local stakeholders, we can generate evidence-based recommendations for policy decisions and management practices. This approach ensures that wetland conservation efforts are grounded in scientific knowledge and have a higher chance of success.

Preserving Uganda’s wetlands requires a collective effort and NatureUganda is dedicated to continue playing its part. We urge for increased enforcement of wetland protection laws and recommend the allocation of resources for sustainable livelihood initiatives that provide alternative sources of income for those affected by wetland restoration efforts. Together we can create a sustainable future where wetlands thrive, biodiversity flourishes, and the benefits they provide are enjoyed by all, now and in future.