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Don’t fight; just create new city wetlands

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba

It’s already being done in the U.S. and ensures no net-loss for environmentalists and investors

The problems facing Kampala city right now have been building since 1980s, and to expect them to be solved in a few years, or even four or even through an unelected Executive Director only answerable to President Yoweri Museveni, is unrealistic.

One of the win-win solutions to what is happening in Kampala would ideally be the construction of another capital city somewhere else, say Nakasongola, instead of demolishing the expensive properties built in wetlands in the city. The Ottoman and Hapsburg empires were both dismantled after World War I to start nation states in Europe.

The emergence of national movements and changing of state contexts saw the development of new cities. The period from Napoleonic wars to World War II saw the development of various cities in Europe to give rise to national identities. For instance, Prague evolved from being a city of the Czech medieval kings into the capital city of the Holy Roman Emperors. Europe never clung to the old capital cities as seems to be the case in Uganda at the moment.

In any case, because of the distrust between the people and their leaders, there is a feeling that Jeniffer Musisi is clearing certain hot spots in Kampala for some big people in the government to have a share of the ever growing city. The stakes are so high such that we need to take a holistic approach to this situation. At the moment, ‘Jeniffer Musisi’’ has become just another word for ‘lawlessness’, ‘demolish to punish them’, ‘demolish because we need that place’,’recruit fellow Balokole everywhere in KCCA’, etc.

This is a bit hard to take in because she may have good intentions; to protect the wetlands in the city and plan for the city.

So, hardcore politicians should be careful not to appear as if they do not believe in protecting the environment. The earth was not put here for man to use and abuse.

If Centenary Park is developed instead of keeping it as a wetland, it will make millions for developers. But it will also result in pollution of the reservoirs, forcing KCCA to spend billions on filtration plants to remove the pollution. Wetlands around Kampala act as the “lungs” and “kidneys” for the city, oxygenating the water and removing and trapping toxins (even heavy metals) in the root systems of the plants in the wetlands.

Swamps or wetlands have many beneficial uses like maintaining the water table, purifying the water that flows through them; flood control, species diversification, and the ones that result in peat formation lessen the impact of burning fossil fuels decreasing the impact of global warming.

But how can we actually measure the benefits of wetlands to people in Kampala when President Museveni was the main behind giving away Mabira forest for sugarcane growing? How can we know that his intentions for Kampala are noble when it is claimed that he is the main protector of Asians who have made it a habit to grab people’s land in Busoga, Ssese Islands and elsewhere? Our politicians never cared half as much about protecting forests as they care about wetlands in Kampala, and this raises suspicions.

Another possible solution would be the creation of new wetlands to replace natural ones in Kampala. This is what they have been doing in North Carolina (USA) and a lot of firms are making money out of it. The concept is simple and one promoted under federal law: For every acre of natural wetlands developers are allowed to destroy, they must then create or restore an acre or two of wetlands to offset that loss. It’s a policy meant to guarantee “no net loss” of the nation’s wetlands. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, such that we don’t have to turn Jeniffer Musisi into an overnight hero. We just have to make sure that the restored wetlands are protected forever.

What happened between her, Nyakana and Amelia Kyambade was more like watching a kid’s film: ‘Rapunzel’. It was comedy first class, if you ask me! The way Amelia was shown in media photos with those big scary eyes. Nyakana is fit to be the fairy-tale character ‘Rapunzel’ that cuts off her hair to go and save his boyfriend at the centenary park. One thing for sure Nyakana spins better than Rapunzel after setting up that tent office to show the world what he is going through after the demolition of his offices at Centenary Park, but I guess he would have to grow his beautiful blond hair long like Rapunzel to be rescued.

Anyway, as for me, I love Kampala as it is now because I get entertained whenever I visit home. Call me selfish but I like watching people ‘boxing’ to get into a bus or taxis without any order; I loved the men shouting on streets selling ‘eki-nigeria kya Shs2000 zzoka’ and all sorts of stuff. Now, Musisi is getting rid of our entertainment. Come on, guys. Some of us cannot afford the over Shs3 billion put aside annually for President Museveni’s entertainment. This is where we get our fun and livelihood.

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