KAMPALA – Conservation and preservation of the natural environment continue to be one of the greatest challenges facing land managers in the 21st century. Increased focus on natural resources as a source of economic growth in developing and developed countries alike, as well as government funding failing to keep track with increasing designation of lands as protected areas, has made the management of protected areas increasingly difficult from both a financial and human resource perspective. As a consequence of this shortfall, it has become increasingly important to effectively manage visitation and tourism experiences within protected areas in order to maximize the environmental and economic returns from nature-based tourism. In light of such challenges, it is untimely for government to licensed companies for oil exploration in the national parks such as Murchison Falls Park which is a very sensitive ecosystem with various vegetation, animals and precious bird spices, however, the blessed with woodland, wetland, savannah as well as the tropical forest that is well known to be a habitat for different bird species and mammals. Among the mammals, many can be spotted including the lions, hippopotamuses, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, Jackson’s-hartebeest and elephants.
The Murchison falls national park has the following activities have brought in millions of foreign exchange and these include game driving which is done early in the morning, boat cruise which begins at Paraa landing area at the point where river Nile enters into Lake albert and takes you to the bottom of the falls, while on the cruise you will sight hippos, waterbucks, crocodiles, buffaloes and elephants, bird watching
With Species commonly seen between Paraa Rest Camp and Ferry crossing are; Spotted Mourning Thrush, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Silver Bird, Bluff-bellied Warbler, Blue-napped Mousebird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaverBlack-headed Gonolek, Green-winged Ptyilia, and Black-headed Batis, this is the best site for the localized White-rumped Seed-eater. Plus nature walks which gives you a chance to explore the wild on foot while in Murchison Falls Conservation area.
However, national parks have benefits to the environment such as Carbon sequestration is the process whereby ecosystems gradually remove harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, national parks help protect wildlife which unfortunately many animal species today face extinction, mainly because their natural habitats are being steadily destroyed, national parks help protect landscapes where animals are not the only things that are at risk of disappearing. Landforms like mountains, rainforests, gorges and dunes are at risk of disappearing if they are not protected from the actions of humans and also the natural action of the environment. Many landforms are at risk from pollution, and when they are controlled under national park status they have a better chance of survival. Parks and sanctuaries preserve history, historical structures built on national park land are preserved in order to give us a better idea of how people lived in the past, and how their cultures worked. There are many different structures that can be preserved which allow people to learn from the past and continue building for the future , helping preserve cultures and tribes, in many national parks around the world people live generally apart from main civilization, and their culture and members are largely protected thanks to the status of the national park and by setting up protected areas, tribes and indigenous peoples who would otherwise struggle in the face of development are protected from these actions. National parks not only protect animals and wildlife, they can also sometimes protect people too.
Giving People the Chance for Healthy Activity, national parks and to some extent wildlife sanctuaries also exist to provide members of the public with space for healthy exercise and recreation in the open air. It is important to conserve places where the natural environment is intact, so that people can slow down, enjoy nature, and get some exercise by walking, running, or riding bikes.
With the oil activities that have been started in Murchison falls national park, the following effects will occur and they include;
Disruption of wildlife migration routes and habitats from noise pollution, traffic and fences, increased vehicle traffic at oil drilling sites contributes significantly to noise pollution in wildlands. Wild mammals and birds respond to noise disturbances with short-term avoidance behavior, but many studies have shown that these behaviors become habituated. Negative impacts include disruption of songbird communication in breeding and nesting seasons, as well as altered predator and prey dynamics. Mammals habituated to traffic may be more vulnerable to road kill.
Oil spills on land and offshore drilling sites, this would be disastrous, carving up the Refuge with roads and industrial infrastructure, fragmenting otherwise pristine habitat and exposing the fragile tundra and wildlife to toxic chemicals and oil spills however Oil operations on land require drilling fluids (sometimes called “mud”) that are injected into the wellbore to lubricate the drilling bit and they are often contain chemicals which are harmful to wildlife.
Landscape changes from well pads and roads, construction activities associated with oil and gas drilling leave behind radical impacts to the landscape. Well pad and road construction require the use of heavy equipment such as bulldozers, road graders and gravel trucks. Development of oil and gas complexes; strip the environment of vegetation, increase erosion (which could lead to landslides and flooding) and the opportunity for weed infestation, disturb the land’s ground surface, seriously fragment once unspoiled wildlife habitats and the impacts caused to public lands by construction of oil and gas sites are often irreversible.
Oil and gas infrastructure and traffic spoil peaceful settings for visitors, outdoor recreation and tourism are major economic engines for Uganda’s local communities and contribute millions to the Ugandan economy every year. But oil tanks, power poles, noisy compressors and a network of roads compromise scenic values and important sources of revenue for our local communities. Too much noise near a good fishing hole, a reduction in numbers of an interesting bird species or excessive weedy plants such as thistles and tumbleweeds may lead to reduced satisfaction with the outdoor experience among fishermen, hunters, hikers, nature photographers and bird watchers.
Haze, toxic chemicals and dust pollute the air and water, Open pits, ponds, and lagoons can contain wastewater, organic chemicals, petroleum hydrocarbons, surfactants and other substances which compromise the safety of our water. Pipeline explosions and wells (even if properly drilled) can cause drinking water problems by cross-contaminating aquifers. Development of gas wells may even require releases of methane and myriad toxic gases into the atmosphere.
Machinery, gas flares and light pollution disrupt scenic views and clear night skies, even with areas without specific cultural significance, the ongoing presence of oil and gas production and well sites destroys precious scenic values and particularly along major travel routes or uniquely beautiful public lands, the presence of oil or gas wells is devastating.
Dangerous methane emissions contribute to climate change, methane is the main component in natural gas, is up to 84 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, trapping heat more effectively and intensifying global warming. What is even more worrisome is that 21 percent of all Uganda’s greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, can be traced to oil, gas extracted from the lands and Oil and gas companies also often deliberately discharge methane into the air through venting, the controlled release of natural gas, and flaring, the burning of it off in the air.
However, the oil activities in the Murchison falls national park could hinder the game viewing, boat riding, bird watching and nature walks which contribute millions of money in the economy and the oil activities could cause disruption of wildlife, oil spills, landscape changes from well pads and roads, haze of toxic chemicals, polluted air, water and gas flares in the environment which are dangerous to both the animals and human beings.
The writer, Edwin Mumbere is as climate activists.