Soroti to host national World Wetlands Day celebrations

The national event to mark World Wetlands Day on Thursday (February 2) will happen in Gweri sub-county in Uganda's eastern city of Soroti.

Uganda is part of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Ramsar sites or wetlands of international importance. Besides having 12 such sites, Uganda has also put in place management plans for wetlands and is engaged in massive public awareness.

This year's global theme is 'It is time for wetland restoration'.

The national theme is: 'Wetland restoration for people and nature' and the slogan is ‘Restore wetlands, save life’, according to the water and environment ministry.

On Wednesday, environment state minister Beatrice Anywar told a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre that the celebrations are in line with the UN decade on ecosystem restoration.

The emphasis is on the linkages and interdependence of people on wetlands, highlighting their significant contribution to their existence and the need to use them wisely.

; “The day gives us an opportunity to take stock of our actions and commitment to undertake measures to reverse impacts of our negative actions," said Anywar in a speech she read on behalf of water and environment minister Sam Cheptoris. "At the same time, it provides the opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands for our common future.

" 'Positive trend'

Uganda’s wetlands have declined in coverage from 15.6% in 1994 to 13% in 2015. Only 8.9% of the 13% was intact and over 4.1% degraded.

The Government put in place several efforts to ensure that the 4.1% is restored. “I am happy to note that because of these vigorous efforts, we are beginning to see a positive trend with the intact wetland coverage now at 9.3%,” said Anywar. 'Double our efforts' In 2011, Cabinet made a decision to create an Environment Protection Police Unit.

Three years later, another Cabinet decision was made to cancel titles erroneously issued in wetlands.

Another decision was to halt any further issuance of permits in wetlands. ;President Yoweri Museveni has often urged citizens to stop further encroachment, calling for punishment of the culprits. Wetland restoration programmes and demarcation of wetland boundaries are among the efforts that have contributed to recovery of Uganda's wetlands.

“We must congratulate ourselves for the mileage reached so far.

However, we need to double our efforts because of the rampant degradation still taking place especially in urban areas,” said Anywar.

; “I challenge you to be part of the fight against impunity and continued encroachment, because the cost of inaction will not spare anyone.

It is time to fast track restoration of wetlands because of the benefits we stand to lose if we do not do anything.

” The minister also cited conservation of biological diversity (40% of the world’s biodiversity live in wetlands), replenishing and supplying water, carbon storage as playing a very critical role in light of climate change, flood and storm water control.

The environment ministry believes there will be improved livelihood when habitats thrive or are protected and restored, as will the ecotourism built on rich ecological systems.

Anywar rallied the public to report any encroachment in their vicinity and carry the message that we can maximise the benefits of healthy wetlands within our immediate reach at the least cost possible. ;

Friday, February 10, 2023