NEMA Plans to Remove More Wetland Invaders to Restore Ecosystems and Safeguard Crucial Environmental Benefits

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Barirega Akankwasah, the Director of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), mentioned that they are evicting encroachers to revive ecosystems and protect important environmental advantages by stopping additional wetland loss and restoring degraded areas.

These comments were made during a press briefing on the current nationwide efforts to reclaim wetlands from encroachment on Monday, June 24, 2024, at the Uganda Media Center (UMC).

It was noted that to halt more wetland losses in Uganda, a decision was taken to stop approvals for developments in wetlands from September 2, 2021, until further notice.

The director highlighted that the government can’t compensate encroachers. Doing so might fuel future infringements and could be seen as endorsing criminal behavior.

Here are reasons why the country must restore Wetlands:

Rainfall formations: wetlands play a key role in the hydrological cycle that influences rain formation through evapotranspiration, moisture recycling, temperature regulation, local climate influence, cloud formation, airflow pattern, water storage, and release. About 40% of our rain comes from wetlands.

Biodiversity Conservation: Wetlands act as natural habitats for a diverse range of species, including many endangered and threatened species. For example, pollinators like birds, our national bird Uganda Crane Crest.

Water Quality Improvement: Wetlands act as natural filters, trapping pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, and heavy metals. This natural filtration improves the quality of water in surrounding areas.

Flood Control: Wetlands absorb and store excess rainfall, reducing the severity of floods and protecting communities from floods.

Climate Change Mitigation: Wetlands are significant carbon sinks, storing carbon in their vegetation and soil. This helps reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and mitigates climate change.

Erosion Control: Wetlands stabilize shorelines and riverbanks with their vegetation, reducing erosion and protecting land from being washed away.

Groundwater Recharge: Wetlands help replenish groundwater supplies by allowing water to slowly infiltrate into the aquifer. This is crucial for maintaining water availability during dry periods.

Economic Benefits: Wetlands support commercial and recreational fisheries, agriculture, and tourism.

Recreational Opportunities: Wetlands offer recreational activities such as bird watching, fishing, hiking, and boating. These activities promote outdoor recreation and contribute to the well-being of people.

Educational and Research Opportunity: Wetlands serve as a natural laboratory for scientific research and education, helping us understand ecological processes and the importance of conservation.

Cultural and Heritage Preservation: Many Indigenous and local communities have cultural, spiritual, and historical connections to wetlands. Protecting these areas helps preserve cultural heritage and traditional practices.

Uganda’s wetland cover reduced from 15.6% in 1994 to only 8.9% in 2019 and due to the restoration of some wetlands, there is a slight recovery with the latest assessment indicating that the intact wetland cover has improved to 9.3%.

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