Loss Of Forest Cover Will Lead To Water Crisis

ask sans-serif; font-size: 9pt; line-height: 200%;”>It presented a pristine ecosystem graced by rivers Kanywa, Kiborogota, Omukyijurirabusha, Kanyeganyegye, and Omukagyera.

These rivers and streams that used to flow with a natural effect are now extinct. The hill tops of Itemba, Matebe and Nyakashozi are bare, punctuated by deadly gullies.

The famous wetlands of Muyorwa and Garubunda are extinct.

If you have lived the past fifteen years or so in a village and you have cared to observe, you notice that those rivers with fresh water, where you took your daring swimming lessons as a naughty young lad, are no more. What is left in some instances are small traces of flowing water surrounded by eucalyptus trees, food crop gardens and traces of waning riparian wetlands. In some cases, the rivers and streams got extinct and small towns are thriving.

The early morning fog is now a fact of history; rainy seasons can longer be traditionally predicted. When such rains come, they are adjunct with devastating floods and their causative links like displacements and diseases. What exactly has happened? Are these symptoms of climate change and subsequent global warming or inefficient policy regimes and deficiency in implementation, monitoring and evaluation of existing environmental policies?


A recent study carried out and managed by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), funded by DFID; Auditing the Effectiveness of Government in Protection and Restoration of Water Catchments System,’ documents and reveal a deepening water crisis in Uganda.

The study gives an explanation to prolonged droughts, acute water shortages, poor, erratic and intermittent rains. The study explains a nexus between land use, environmental degradation and subsequent deepening water crisis.

Environmental calamity

ACODE study observes that the rate at which these resources are encroached upon and consequently depleted is higher than the rate at which they are restored and as a result, Uganda stands at the brink of an escalating environmental calamity.

The encroachment, drying up and depletion of River Rwizi in Mbarara, River Nyamwamba in Kasese, Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria, are glaring manifestations of a severe environmental breakdown, inadequate and non-functionality of policy regimes as well as a major cause of economic mayhem; poverty, conflicts, disease, drought and famine.

ACODE findings corroborate with the Uganda Poverty Status Report (2005) and the 2008 National Environmental Management Report which reveals that Uganda’s forest cover has diminished from over 11 million hectares in 1890 to the below par 3m hectares in 2008, and at same rate of depletion, Uganda will have zero forests by 2050.

This actually means that at this geometric rate, in few years ahead, Uganda will have no forests and subsequently no water. In the circumstances, public water works like boreholes and protected springs have started drying up.

The foregoing coins a testimony that environmental conservation today is no longer a question of beauty but a question of economic survival of both individual households and the nation at large.

It also presents poverty as so much a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation most especially when forests are depleted, every wetland is encroached on, every swamp drained, top soils eroded, rivers drying up and lakes shrinking, the water table continues to go down and desertification becomes a reality. This has eventually reduced and depleted water yields to feed public water works like gravity water schemes, boreholes, shallow wells, and protected springs.

In Katakwi, Mbarara, Ntungamo and Kasese, over 50% of public water works are non-functional. Water granaries that feed them dried up. Will Uganda achieve the ambitious 77% water coverage target by 2015 at a time when all its wetlands, forests, rivers, hills, lakes are rapidly getting depleted?

If Uganda is to insulate itself from this calamity, it has to deliberately replenish and restore its water catchments. Forests and other water catchments are no longer for scenic beauty and ecotourism, but rather are important for survival of humanity to begin with. If we do not have water, then we don’t have life.


Yet the state of the environment in Uganda’s pre-independence period was the most ideal in the whole of Africa. Once described as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and a fairy tale by Sir Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of United Kingdom.

The country enjoyed an ideal weather pattern suitable for agricultural production that boosted the country’s economy in the immediate period after independence. Agriculture, thus, formed the country’s economic backbone until today. Increases in population, now at over 34 million people, have had very negative implications on land usage, mainly for agricultural and shelter purposes.

The findings reveal that Uganda has a number of laws and policies geared at conserving and protecting her environment. Despite a forest of policies, catchments continue to dwindle. This calls for meticulous review and avid implementation of the existing environmental policy regime with the view of tailoring, customizing, localizing and genderising it for practical purposes.

My friend Godber Tumushabe of ACODE argues that if the top leadership (read President Museveni) demonstrates the will for uncompromising implementation of environmental policies, this unchecked degradation of biomass and deepening water crisis can be averted.


However, the President argues that he wants to create jobs for the citizenry and boost Uganda’s economy. Can this be achieved sustainably?

What we need is a balanced approach that embeds green growth in our development agenda. Can Ugandans be guided to engage in profitable ventures that don’t compromise the wider environmental needs?

Rwakakamba Morrison, Chief Executive Officer, Agency for Transformation, ,

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