WILL IT SOON BE ‘GOOD BYE RAMSAR SITE’
The Lutembe Bay, located en route between Kampala and Entebbe along the Lake Victoria shores, has reportedly come under renewed assault by land grabbers and as often the case, NEMA, our environmental watchdog, appears asleep instead of not just raising the alarm but decisively acting to protect the already much smaller site as it is compared to its initial expanse when the Ramsar Site was launched.
As was predicted at the time by many concerned conservationists, then brusquely brushed aside for being ‘alarmist, against progress and development and generally a nuisance’, the establishment of a flower farm near the Lutembe Bay has triggered a range of other developments, like a magnet would draw in pins and while the farm itself is not to blame for that ‘follow me’ effect, the establishment of it so near a crucially important wetland and bird sanctuary was clearly not in the best interest of Lutembe, not then and not now.
The Lutembe Bay is a key resting point for migratory birds coming from Europe to escape the winter and then again as the birds return from their ‘second home’ further down South, but according to data available via Nature Uganda and leading birding specialists the number of birds now visiting Lutembe have dropped very significantly as the available habitat shrunk ever more.
Media reports now alleged that real estate developers have cleared vegetation including trees all the way to the water, which if true would be a crime – felling trees without a permit is a criminal offense – but although recently a new Executive Director was installed at NEMA, bringing the sleepy tenure of Dr. Aramanya Mugisha to a timely end, no visible reaction is known to this correspondent as of the time of filing this report, giving indication that it will be ‘business as usual’ for both developers and the savaged nature reserve.
There is now growing speculation that the forthcoming oil wealth of Uganda, once tapped into fully, will spur a rapid growth of demand for lake side residences and gated communities for the stream of expatriates expected to come to Uganda to work in the oil industry, and while this will be good for economic development of our country it will in the case of Lutembe Bay and a few other areas worth protecting be a death knell. It is a question of time therefore, should government not swiftly intervene and translate policy statements into concrete action, before the coveted Ramsar status will be coming under scrutiny, to the point of being possibly even revoked, should Uganda fail to uphold her side of the bargain to protect, preserve and defend wetlands.
And considering a recent article by this correspondent in The Eye Rwanda, available via this web link at http://www.theeye.co.rw/conservation.php which drew quite some feeble denials from here in Uganda, a bit more from Kenya and the most from Tanzania – the main culprit of perpetrating environmental crimes at present, it only goes to show that the tenor of this article is entirely correct. Whereas Rwanda goes the extra mile to protect, preserve and defend her environment – by 2020 they intend to have 30 percent of ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ under forest again – other do indeed falter, and some in a big way for that matter.
Time will tell how this story will play out, so keep watching this space.