KAMPALA – In June this year, Uganda joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Environment Day (WED) with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) taking lead position in the celebrations.
Unlike in the past 30 years where our country has been part of this global environment pomp, this year, just like the rest of the world, Uganda celebrated WED ‘scientifically’ – with a handful of celebrants at NEMA House in Kampala. Normally, WED would have brought together thousands of Ugandans to show case their commitment to the environment and demonstrate their efforts towards achieving environmental sanity. This time it was not possible on June 5 due to COVID 19 – an environment-related challenge – which by surprise has taken the entire world captive and decreed that we make a complete overhaul in the way we do things.
The 2020 national WED celebrations ran under the theme: Nature is speaking, listen; while the global theme was: Time for Nature. This year’s themes implored us to pay great attention to nature and constantly check our actions. The local theme also reminded us that our actions have had detrimental impacts on the environment and that nature is now speaking back to us through various ways.
Officiating at the small but colourful function, the State Minister for Environment Hon Beatrice Anywar, who said we were celebrating 2020 WED under very unique circumstances, took stock of Uganda’s gains in environment conservation towards sustainable development. Ms Anywar reminded Ugandans that the government fights to ensure that environmental resources are appropriately harnessed for a sustainable socio-economic transformation.
Nature is our host
We must remember that nature hosts us. We, therefore, have an obligation to respect and handle it with utmost care and responsibility. This is our house and this is where we get our livelihood from. The National Environment Act No.5 2019 Article 4 stipulates that nature has rights. I quote: “Nature has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”
In April 2020, President Yoweri Museveni instructed that people are cleared from wetlands, shorelines and river banks. Yes, following this directive, and in fulfillment of our mandate as NEMA, we continue to routinely regulate, monitor, supervise and coordinate all environment activities across the country. And because the responsibility of ensuring sustainable development of Uganda rests on each one of us, caring for the environment must not be left to NEMA alone.
Recently, there have been cases of lake water surges in places such as Mulungu and Gaba; flooding in Kasese and other areas, landslides in mountainous areas, and further extreme wet and dry conditions.
We, therefore, must listen to nature. Nature is speaking and wants its space. Mother Nature is just trying to reclaim her lost territory, and she will continue to do so whether we want it or not. To be safe, we should listen to Nature’s gentle talk because if we do not, she will start shouting at us causing a lot of harm to our lives, settlements, farmlands and other developments.
It is, therefore, necessary for us to become attentive agents of a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future. By recklessly cutting down trees without planting new ones; by littering our cities, towns, villages and roads; by not respecting the Tuve ku Kaveera campaign; and by refusing to listen to the cries of the environment; we are degenerating into agents of self-destruction.
We have continued to note with concern the increase in the maltreatment of the environment during the Covid-19 lockdown. Yes, supervision has been low but I do not want to assume that President Museveni’s directive to keep just 30 percent of the staff in government institutions during this time is to blame. Many people are just irresponsible users of our environment.
Although the 1995 Constitution dictates that every person in Uganda has a right to a clean and healthy environment, a quick scan on Kampala streets, and in many other towns, exposes heaps and heaps of unending garbage and clutter, especially of the type of kaveera that was banned in this economy.
Bad disposal, especially of non-biodegradable materials, affects lives of all creatures including humans, and it also interferes with the ability of soils to support plant life. If this continues, what will become of future generations?
NEMA works to promote environmental literacy among the population, and it is wise for the public to demand for quality service from this great institution. Visit us today at www.nema.go.ug.
William Lubuulwa is the Senior Information, Education and Communications Officer, National Environment Management Authority.