NEWS

UWA warns of looming disaster as Bududa residents return to mudslide-hit areas

A man inspects his garden on the ridge in Nametsi, Bududa District, the scene of the 2010 landslide scar that killed more than 250 people.

Another landslide disaster could occur in Nametsi mudslide scar due to poor farming methods by the re-settlers, Uganda Wildlife authority has warned.

The Mt Elgon Area Conservation manager [UWA], Mr Fred Kizza said the people who were relocated to Kiryandongo have come back and started farming at the slopes of Mt Elgon and building houses within 500 metres from the mountain cliffs which puts their lives at risk of another landslide again.

“Landslides do not happen immediately, there are often warning signs and it is clear that people resettling in Nametsi are tempting the ground again for another landslide because there are already heavy rains. We advise the people to take safety measures please by moving away from Nametsi,” said Mr Kizza.

Namestsi, the scene of the 2010 Bududa mudslide that killed about 300 people was abandoned then but if you went back today, the place is filled with people living their lives, minding their business and farming along the slopes.

When PML visited the place last week, many people moved slowly through their gardens under quiet environs, some paused for a few minutes by the crude stones rolled down by the March1, 2010 landslides while others walked past seemingly unmindful of what befell this place, Nametsi is once again bustling with new life.

The Nametsi LCI chairman Mr Tsoka Matsatsa said he has about 300 people who have already come back from Kiryandongo for resettlement.

“And because this was their land, we can’t refuse them from re-occupying it, they are here and doing farming, they have planted maize, Irish, Onions, carrots and beans,” said Mr Matsatsa.

Bududa LCV chairman Mr Wilson Watira acknowledged that some of the families that were displaced by the landslide have since returned and resettled at the spot where the mudslide struck in 2010 and that the village which was deserted is now bustling with human activity like farming and business.

“People are already back here, I think because of poor conditions there and we are calling upon government to act urgently and relocate residents these people again living on the slopes of Mt Elgon,” said Mr Watira.

He warned residents against ignoring early warnings signs of landslides such as the changes in the landscape, patterns of storm-water drainage on slopes (especially where runoffs converge) like land movement, small slides, flows and progressively leaning trees in order to safeguard their lives.

This comes at the time preliminary geo-technical study of disaster-prone Mt Elgon by experts led by Dr Yazi Bamutaze, a senior lecturer in the Department of Geography, Geo-informatics and Climatic Science at Makerere University, revealed that conditions remain too dangerous and another mudslide could occur because the ground is still moving.

The latest survey reports issued by the NEMA and UWA also indicate that more than 200,000 people living at the slopes of the mountain are at great risk as the dead volcanic mountain has developed bigger cracks, triggered off by heavy deforestation, poor methods of farming and poor land management around the mountain.

According to a study published in the Elsevier journal, landslide occurrence on the slopes of Mt Elgon dates back to the early 20th century and that geologists had by 2002 recorded some 98 landslides in Bududa district.

Dr Goretti Kitutu, the state minister for environment said areas on the ridges of Mt Elgon is vulnerable to land and mud slips due to the volcanic soils.

In her published works in Elsevier journal, Dr Kitutu says following a long research in the Mt. Elgon areas it was concluded “excavation of slopes and the concentration of runoff water through linear landscape elements (parcel boundaries, footpaths) are the main malefactors besides poor farming methods and settlement at the hills.”

Past disasters: In March 2010, landslides hit Nametsi village in Bududa District killing 350 people and displacing thousands.

In 2011 a mudslide in Bulambuli killed about 28 people. In March 2012, mudslides killed six people in Sironko District and in June 2012, another mudslide buried 18 people in Bududa District.

Residents joing soldiers and other government officials to dig the mud in search for survivors after the 2010 Bududa mudslides.

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