Environment

URBAN FLOODS: A WAKE-UP CALL FOR UGANDA BUT ARE WE READY TO ACT?   

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Cliff Abenaitwe

Traditionally, rainfall was celebrated because it is believed to be a blessing from the creator. For farmers, it should be celebrated much more since over 85 percent of farmers in Uganda depend on it for agriculture. Even in urban areas, rainfall would mean life to urban farms and gardens, more rain water – hence a saving on the water bills and much more.

However, the situation has over the years been changing from good to bad and now it is worse. Rain is now more cursed than cherished in both urban and rural areas. What a pity!

A modern saying in Uganda goes that ‘Water is life when you are not staying in Bwaise’. Bwaise is one of the suburbs of Uganda’s Capital City- Kampala that is prone to floods.

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This is part of Bwaise Town- a place well known for flooding in Kampala City

What used to be a Bwaise problem however is now in many other urban areas.

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Many Kampala suburbs have for long suffered from floods. This is Kalerwe which is less than 10 Kilometres from Kampala City Centre. Kalerwe neighbors Bwaise

In March 2018 alone- Mbarara, Rukiga (Muhanga town) and Kabale towns among others saw the worst floods in their recent past and this is a sign of what has gone wrong over the years and what is likely to come.

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On March 14, 2018, Mbarara town experienced the worst flooding in over 15 years. This is Part of a hotel that was flooded. 

In rural Uganda, the writing has for long been over the wall. The rate of environmental degradation has been growing to alarming levels presently. Hill slope forest cover has been decreasing daily, the hill slopes are poorly cultivated, bush burning has persisted while the wetlands in the low lying areas have been encroached on for agricultural practices- making mudslides, soil erosion and subsequent flooding inevitable. These floods for many years have been far in rural areas, away from the public limelight and wide mass media coverage.

However, now that the ‘flood spirits’ have invaded the urban areas, where mass media coverage is high, it is now time to wake up to the mess that has befallen our areas.

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This part of Kampala is a stone throw from the City centre

Much talk has for years centred on the rate of environmental degradation in rural areas but this phenomenon is real in urban areas. The biggest portion of wetlands in urban areas have been degraded mainly for human settlement and many forests have been degazetted. This is dangerous for our urban areas. To make matters worse, our urban areas have no adequate planning for drainage channels as well poorly planned human settlements.

Way Forward

In many of the big urban areas, the damage has already been done and little can be done to lessen the flooding cases- but still something can be done and must be done immediately. All buildings should have a rain water harvesting system or plan in place. This would ultimately lessen the amount of water from the roofs to the surface. Also, urban drainage channels must be opened and maintained. We cannot afford a situation where rain water finds its way to wherever it wants. Our urban areas must have more trees planted and more green belts while all buildings must be on plan and the approval of such plans must be based on technical guidance not corrupt tendencies. For the growing towns, this is the time to have the necessary plans in place to mitigate future problems like this. If such floods are not lessened, loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of transport and business as well as spread of water-borne diseases will continue in Uganda.

In a nutshell, urban and rural floods are a sign of something gone wrong. We must take them as a warning of more danger to come and a springboard to action. In Uganda, we are found of calling government to act but in this case, government alone cannot do much. We all must join hands to protect the environment and promote sustainable urban growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zika outbreak: The mosquito menace

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The mosquito, Aedes aegypti, imagesis causing widespread fear in Brazil where it is spreading the Zika virus that has been linked to thousands of babies being born with birth defects.

So what do we know about it?

It loves our cities

This is not some jungle-dwelling insect that rarely comes into contact with people.

It is one of those animals, like cockroaches, pigeons and urban foxes, that thrives in built-up areas.

It does not need natural water sources to breed as it can lay eggs in the small and plentiful pools of stagnant water, such as gutters or flower pots, found in cities . Read more

 

Countries Where Rats Are On The Menu

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While rats are met with revulsion in most parts of the world, some communities put rodents pride of place on the dinner menu.

Before going to sleep, you ought to make sure no food is left forgotten somewhere on the floor or table. rttOtherwise, you may end up with some familiar and unwelcome guests: rats. Just a glimpse of a furry rodent is enough to inspire revulsion and complaints to authorities – for example, New York has recently renewed efforts to solve a ‘rat crisis’ in the city. But such guests are not despised everywhere. In fact, in some places around the world, rats are considered a delicious delicacy.On 7 March every year……. (read more)

The Gold- Poverty Paradox of Geita- An Inside Story

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By Abenaitwe Cliff

At the mention of Gold presence in an area, wealth expectations justifiably increase and when its mining is on, the area ought to change for the better. However, the story is different in Geita district located in the North Western part of Tanzania where gold mining has been taking place for over 50 years now.

Poor sanitary conditions, shanty dusty towns and trading centres, use of rudimentary tools, high population growth rate, high rate of rural urban migration, high number of idle youth and poor sanitation are a characteristic of Geita district located over 700 kilometres North of the capital Dar es Salaam.

In 1999, Angro-Gold Ashanti(GGM as it is popularly known)- a giant mining company got a license to mine gold  the area something that gave the residents most of whom were engaged in small scale mining hope for a brighter future. “When GGM came in, we thought large scale well managed gold production will increase and the whole area will develop,” says Barutwanayo Bernard, a native of Nyakabale in Geita district.

According to Baruntwanayo, the residents expected the company to provide them with jobs, contribute to the social welfare of the area through it taxes, fees and loyalties but this is still a dream after over 10 years.

On reaching the district’s main town of Geita, the streets are dusty, the schools along the road are in a poor state, people live in poor houses and a big number of youth can be seen on the streets idle as early as noon. “Our lives have not changed at all. I have tried to get a job in the mines but all in vain and this is the same situation with all my friends. If you do not know anyone in the mines or if you do not have money to bribe, you cannot get a job there”, a visibly worried young man Baraka Butundo noted adding that the mine owners usually get their own laborers from as far as Dar es Salaam.

Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.
Geita district commissioner Manzie Mangochie talking to journalists under the revenue watch program at his office.

Authorities in this relatively new district share the same view. Manzie Mangochie the District Commissioner reveals that the mining company pays only 200,000 dollars annually as loyalty fee to the district a figure which is like a drop in the ocean. “This money is little compared to the population, the size of the district and the needs of our people,” Mangochie told a group of journalist under the revenue watch program at his office in Geita town.

According to the jolly Mangochie, much as GGM pays taxes to the government, its direct relevance to the area is still a dream.

Though the situation is not desirable something can be done on the legislative front. “We need to change on the laws concerning the mining sector. There is a need to empower local leaders and communities to have a say in mining contracts because it’s their areas to gain or lose,” he elaborated.

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This is Geita town. Potholed roads, dust and poor houses are typical characteristics of the town that is sitting on gold.

These photos were taken from different areas of Geita district to show the situation on the ground.

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A cross section of Geita town. You will all agree with me, this place doesnot look gold.

 

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Part of Geita town-a stone throw away from the vast gold mine.

 

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The quality of people’s houses outside Geita town leaves alot to be desired

 

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Many young and energetic youth are unable to get jobs in the mines. They resort to this economic activity of crushing stones they steal from the GGM mining area to get gold from them.That is how they earn a living.

 

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One of the journalists looking on as one of the residents in the outskirts of the GGM gold mine crushes the stones looking for gold.

 

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This is Nyakabale village near the main gold mine. Locals in this area live in poor conditions.

 

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Looking for survival at all costs.These people in Geita are looking for gold from soil deposits.

 

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Its not only the youth but even the old women. This arises questions over the agricultural productivity in this area. Observers think these ladies should be in gardens as the youth look for money.

 

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The technology used by small scale miners is too rudimentary.

 

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This photo is of a collection of homesteads in Nyakabale village which is occupied by small scale and illegal miners.

 

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Small scale miners use dangerous methods in their quest for Gold. In this photo, mercury is mixed in the sad in the process of gold seeking. Health experts reveal that mercury is dangerous to human life

 

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With increased influx of people looking for opportunities in the gold mines, such houses and towns are expected to come-up.

 

Residents Warned Over River Encroachment

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Residents Warned Over River Encroachment

Cliff Abenaitwe

July 2, 2012

Environmentalists in Western Uganda are expressing concern over the persistent encroachment on river banks.  They say this must stop to avert problems like reduction of the river water levels, silting of the rivers as well as environmental degradation.

Some of the rivers and streams adversely affected by the act include River Rwizi and River Kagera in Western Uganda.

River Rwizi water has subsequently changed due to human activity along the River

Jeconius Musingwire the national Environmental management authority (NEMA) focal person in western Uganda says the need for agricultural land, sand quarrying, over grazing and charcoal burning, have caused more harm than good to the banks of river Rwizi.

He adds that such human activities have led to far-reaching effects. “ The water levels are reducing every now and again which means that towns like Mbarara that use piped water pumped from River Rwizi will face acute water shortages especially in the dry spell more than ever” Musingwire adds.

He explicates that as the result of human activity, soils from upstream end up in the river because of the bare banks causing silting.

Action Plan

Despite the damage already inflicted, the good news is that the situation is reversible.

“We need adopt environment conservation practices to save our land from the effects of climatic change” Musingwire advises.

Protection of the River banks is everyone’s responsibility and it is achievable.

He explains that protecting the river banks through planting of trees on the already damaged banks as well as in the upstream areas and implementing environmental policies and legislations will save the country from a looming catastrophe.

Planting trees especially in hilly areas is a big step forward in environmental conservation.