By Aryampa Brighton
With now 63 country partners in the Clean Seas Campaign, a global movement devoted to ending marine plastic pollution from source to sea.
Commitments by signatory countries cover more than 60 percent of the world’s coastlines, with a growing membership from countries like Uganda working to protect other critical and connected water bodies.
However, it is important to know that Uganda is a country of exceptional wildlife diversity, encompassing a zone of overlap between the savannahs of East Africa and the West African rain forests.
Designated by Churchill as the Pearl of Africa not to be forgotten, Uganda is endowed with a vast array of landscapes of incredible aesthetic beauty.
The geographic features of Uganda range from glacier-topped mountains, rain forests, savannahs and dry deciduous acacia bushland to wetlands and swamps.
These, along with a wide variation in climate and soils, combine to give the country an impressive range of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Because of this endowment, lonely planet magazine declared Uganda World’s number one tourism destination in 2012 confirming Churchill’s historic finding that Uganda was truly the Pearl of Africa.
With a recorded 18,783 species of fauna and flora (NEMA, 2009), Uganda ranks among the top ten most bio diverse countries globally.
Uganda is host to 53.9% of the World’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11% (1063 species) of the world’s recorded species of birds (50% of Africa’s bird species richness), 7.8% (345 species) of the Global Mammal Diversity (39% of Africa’s Mammal Richness), 19% (86 species) of Africa’s amphibian species richness and 14% (142 species) of Africa’s reptile species richness, 1,249 recorded species of butterflies and 600 species of fish.
All these beautiful sceneries and ecosystems are threatened by the catastrophic effects of the triple planetary crises ranging from biodiversity breakdown, the climate emergency, and rampant pollution.
This roots from decades of unsustainable production, irresponsible consumption, and insufficient waste disposal. This is most likely going to be worsened by oil developments particularly the four major oil projects of the Oil refinery, Kingfisher, Tilenga and the heated East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that pass in most of these eco systems. The unregulated production and exportation of plastic litter is also a great threat.
And last but not least, the educated Ugandans about the dangers of plastic pollution posed on the environment and eco systems.
Every time, these areas of natural importance are threatened, Uganda as country becomes more vulnerable to climate change. We keep grappling with floods, landslides and it will lead to food insecurity if no action is taken immediately.
This is worsening the poverty line among Ugandans and the economy that majorly depends on agricultural production. The forests and other vegetation who act as pollutant absorbers through their leaves and needles and thereby help to improve air quality are also threatened including but not limited to Bugoma, Zokka forest.
As we fight the economic frustrations caused by covid-19, this threat of eco systems poses a great risk to the country’s tourism sector that contributes nearly 10% to Uganda’s GDP and is responsible for 23% of Uganda’s exports as well as earnings of as much as $1.6 billion. The tourism and travel sector also employs 667,000 people in Uganda. Is the risk we should take as country, I guess not?
This is a wake-up call to the government through NEMA, NFA and other relevant ministries and stakeholders to take immediate action on the production and importation of plastic litter and other others pollution and environmental degradation.
For starters, I urge the government to ban all takeaway food and drink litter in eco system areas in Uganda to protect them “obutonde”, encourage planting of trees and plant cover as well as protection of our threatened rain forests like Bugoma, Zokka etc. to act as pollutant absorbers. The government should also carry out community climate and conservation sensitization.
Further, now is the time to lean into Uganda’s innovative and expanding clean energy industries not only create quality jobs, but also position Uganda as an economic leader in the region.
By leading the region in a transition to clean renewable energy, we can also expand access to clean energy for every household. Green jobs not only provide much needed employment opportunities for young people but also give youth an outlet to contribute directly to the fight against the climate change by adopting green behaviors in their daily lives.
Last but not least, the government of Uganda should revise the whole oil production process by engaging in effective consultations so that we can come up with well-thought-out inclusive policies that protect our nature and pride as pearl of Africa.
We appreciate that on 25th June, 2021 Uganda joined Clean Seas Campaign to keep plastic pollution out of its lakes and rivers but these efforts should push to all eco systems and biodiversity areas to keep our country green and booming in the agriculture sector.
The writer is a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities (YGC)
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