Uganda has today 2nd February, joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World wetlands day in Gweri sub-county in Uganda’s eastern city of Soroti, amidst heavy encroachment and destruction of the earth’s eco systems in various parts of the country.
Uganda is part of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Ramsar sites or wetlands of international importance.
Besides having 12 such sites, Uganda has also put in place management plans for wetlands and is engaged in massive public awareness.
This year’s event is being commemorated under the Global theme; “It’s time for Wetland Restoration”. The National theme is; “Wetland Restoration for People and Nature” with ‘Restore Wetlands, save Life’ as the slogan.
The theme underscores the urgent need for wetlands restoration. It highlights the significant contribution of wetlands to livelihoods and the danger of not conserving those that still exist and those being rapidly lost through wetland encroachment.
On Wednesday, environment state minister Beatrice Anywar told a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre that the celebrations are in line with the UN decade on ecosystem restoration.
“The day gives us an opportunity to take stock of our actions and commitment to undertake measures to reverse impacts of our negative actions, “At the same time, it provides the opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands for our common future,” said Anywar in a speech she read on behalf of water and environment minister Sam Cheptoris.
However, Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests and are Earth’s most threatened ecosystem. In Uganda, wetlands continue to be degraded and the current area of wetlands across the country is below that recorded in the 1990s
An attack on wetlands is an attack on our natural heritage. The thirteenth and fifteenth Sustainable Development Goals encourage us to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss. Achieving this requires our collective commitment and action against wetland encroachment
“Carbon is building up everyday in the atmosphere causing global warming, drought, floods and many diseases as we have recently witnessed with the flooding of Lake Victoria. Unless we commit ourselves and channel all our efforts towards restoration of Uganda’s wetlands, the future is very oblique for us,” said Sam Cheptoris, Minister for Water and Environment, Uganda during the 2nd February 2022, World Wetlands Day held at Gayaza playgrounds, Kimanya – Kabonera Division in Masaka City.
This year’s World Wetlands Day requires both state and non-state actors to invest more financial, human, and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those that have been degraded.
The World Wetlands Day provides the opportunity for us to take stock of our actions towards wetland conservation and raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet.
The United Nations General Assembly on 30th August 2021 proclaimed the 2nd day of February as World Wetlands Day to raise awareness of the twin urgency of reversing the accelerating loss of wetlands and to promote the conservation and restoration of wetlands. Wetland action has two main aims, promoting ecologically sustainable management of wetland resources to meet social – economic needs and maintain ecosystem services and integrating socially sensitive wetland management strategies for the long-term enhancement of livelihoods and poverty reduction.
Role of wetlands to the environment.
Wetlands play vital ecological and socio-economic functions such as flood mitigation, water purification, erosion prevention, moderation of extreme flows of water, maintenance of water tables in surrounding lands, and providing habitat for numerous species of animals and plants that contribute to a rich biodiversity.
Wetlands are also essential for food, medicines, water supply, fisheries, dry season grazing for livestock, nutrient retention, elimination of toxins, tourism, and recreational use among other benefits.
Yet despite the myriad benefits they provide, wetlands are among the ecosystems with the highest rates of decline, loss, and degradation. Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests and are Earth’s most threatened ecosystem.
In Uganda, wetlands continue to be degraded and the current area of wetlands across the country is below that recorded in the 1990s. In the urban areas, there is indiscriminate encroachment for expansion of human settlements while in the rural areas there is steady conversion of wetlands for agricultural use.
According to the Uganda Wetlands Atlas Volume II, developed by the Government in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the national area of wetlands declined by 30 per cent between 1994 and 2008. And although between 2008 and 2014, there was an increase in area under wetlands, this has been a paltry 0.03 per cent increase: from 26,307km2 in 2008 to 26,315 km2 in 2014 (MWE, 2014).
The United Nations in Uganda is working with the government on several initiatives geared towards protecting wetlands as nature-based solutions for tackling climate change and realization of SDGs.
According to the National Environment Act 2019, a person shall not, without the written approval of the relevant lead agency, reclaim or drain any wetland, disturb any wetland by drilling or tunneling in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the wetland.
Compiled by the editorial