Uganda’s economic growth is pegged on its natural resources such as tourism, fish, forests, wetlands and rain-fed agriculture outlined in the different Government policy reports. The recent report entitled, “Is Uganda’s environment and governance in crisis?” by the World Bank, says Uganda is consuming its natural resources at a rate faster than it can regenerate.
This was also the case with the presentations at the two forestry symposiums on the successes and challenges of the forestry sector. It was organised by Care International and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala.
“The state of forestry has never been grimmer than today,” said Steve Amooti Nsita, a consultant. This was during a presentation of a key note address entitled, overcoming challenges in forestry governance after a decade of reform. He explained that the rate of deforestation is at its worst with the forest cover retreating by 92,000 hectares every year.
This, according to Godber Tumushabe, the director of ACODE, is because of the economic growth that is accompanied by an increased rate of population growth. “As a result, consumption of products like charcoal is increasing, which is not bad, but the issue is whether this is sustainable,” said Tumushabe. For Ugandans, all this is worth thinking about during the commemoration of the Earth Day, on April 22.
It provides an opportunity to people in order to unite their voices to call for a sustainable future and direct them toward quantifiable outcomes. The Earth Day is considered the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The path to sustainable development can be traced back to the conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de janeiro, Brazil where Agenda 21, the blue print to sustainable development was adopted.
This was followed by the creation of environmental institutions such as the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
The National Resistance Movement, which came to power in 1986, was the first Government to put in place a ministry to address environmental issues. Policies and laws on environment were put in place and such landmarks catapulted Uganda into the limelight. Pilgrimages were made to Uganda to sit at the feet of the new leaders to learn from them.
Nsita reminisces on the times pointing out that at international meetings, “Uganda was putting on a sterling performance. When Uganda spoke, everybody listened. We all walked with heads held high. It was nice being Ugandan then.” He pointed out that corruption is glorified and that this is like a cancer that is eating at the natural resources.
More speakers pointed out how the environment sector is being torn to shreds because of poor governance. A few of them like Michael Mugisa, the executive director of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), say they do not want to keep on lamenting and that they are hopeful about revitalising the forestry sector. In addition to Government programmes to improve sustainability, Non-Government organisations and consultancy groups such as Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC), are promoting the wise of energy.
For instance, CREEC is engaged in research and training in order to help millions of Ugandans to harness solar power.As the countries of the world prepare for the commemoration of the Earth Summit dubbed as Rio+20, the citizenry is frustrated about unfulfilled promises. The climate change is biting harder yet Government action is backsliding.
This has even overshadowed the success made so far and the meeting in Rio de janeiro, which will take place eight weeks from today, will provide a forum for the people voicing out their concerns.
The New Vision