Stick to environmental policies to reduce disasters – MPs urge gov’t

Kampala-Members of parliament (MPs) have faulted government for failure to stick to its plans and policies on environmental protection which has contributed to increased disasters in the country.

This was during a meeting organized by Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) in Kampala on Wednesday for Members of Parliament sitting on selected committees to discuss Disaster Risk Reduction.

“Government has been evicting people from the wetlands from growing rice but we are now seeing here within Kampala and other cities people are being given clearance to construct permanent structures in the wetlands. Government needs to stick to its plans and policies and only then shall we be able to have a country that is free from these disasters we are seeing currently.” Noted Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi

Ronald Balimwezo, the Nakawa East MP faulted National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for clearing some businessmen to build in wetlands.

“Government had made a resolution that all those who encroach on wetlands their houses were going to be demolished, they were going to be evicted from the wetland, but now we are seeing rich people constructing apartments in wetlands and the only gateway to Late Victoria is being damaged therefore we as leaders come out to say no the law must be fair. If that doesn’t apply we are going to mobilize all the poor people who are alleged to have constructed in wetlands to make a demonstration to that effect.”

Oliver Katwesigye, the Buhweju Woman MP said, “Climate change is real but we need combined effort here. It’s not only the government that will do the job. We need to come together as Ugandans and do something. Recently they gave us trees as MPs, call your constituents and give them those trees to plant in bare places you think you may have disasters.

She added, “I also have a problem with NEEMA, NEEMA has let Uganda down and yet we have been giving them a lot of money in our budgets. These are the people who don’t care, they allow people to do work in wetlands they have given out all the wetlands not only here in the central but also outside Kampala.”

Emmanuel Ntare from the department of Disaster Risk Management at URCS while making a presentation (Photo by URCS) 

The MPs committed to fronting issues of disaster risk reduction and management as they carry out their roles.

Earlier in his presentation, Emmanuel Ntare from the department of Disaster Risk Management at URCS highlighted the need for anticipatory action in disaster management to avert disasters or minimize their damage when they happen.

“Why do we wait to announce disasters after they have occurred? Prior actions would enable preparedness and early warning actions to mitigate disasters or the likely impact.” He said
He called for strengthening of the mandate of relevant government ministries and departments like Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) and investing in Impact-based Forecasting rather than convectional forecasts.

Robert Kwesiga the Secretary General URCS speaking during the meeting (Photo by URCS)

Robert Kwesiga the Secretary General URCS said they chose to engage the MPs since they are key stakeholders in issues to do with environment protection and managing disasters.

“We want them to be evidence based when they are allocating resources such that they take appropriate decisions.  Also the people who are affected by these disasters are their constituents so they play a dual role in  their constituencies and at the national level.” Said Kwesiga

The latest report by the Global Disaster Monitoring Network of 2022 ranked Uganda number one in Africa among the countries most prone to disasters and 15th worldwide. The 2020 annual state of disaster report also indicated that Uganda losses about 563 billion shillings annually in disasters. The recent floods in Mt Elgon areas have left 20 people dead while in Kasese 15 have died in the recent days. Floods have also caused harvoc in Kabale district and West Nile washing away roads and gardens.