Butebo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Water and Environment has started restoring degraded wetlands in Butebo district.
Deo Kabaalu, a wetlands officer in the Ministry of Water and Environment in charge of the Eastern region said during the activity which started on Wednesday, that government intends to reclaim over 1,900 hectares of wetland that has been encroached by rice farmers.
Kabaalu says that the exercise will include retracing the wetland boundaries and placing mark stones to demarcate areas that will be out of bounds.
According to Kabaalu, the government has started supporting communities surrounding the wetlands with alternative livelihood activities like fish farming and horticulture.
Last month, the government banned rice growing in all wetlands across the country in a bid to restore the environment that has been degraded by farming activities.
Muhammad Galya, the Butebo District Natural Resources Officer said that out of the 79 square kilometres of wetlands in the district, over 70 square kilometres have been degraded by communities.
Jonathan Aupal, a resident of Kasedai Parish in Butebo district said that he was depending on the wetland for his livelihood by growing rice. He says that after being sensitized, they understood the importance of restoring the wetlands.
In 2019, President Museveni commissioned the Limoto wetland wise use demonstration site in Puti Puti sub-county in Pallisa district and directed farmers and residents who had encroached on the wetland to vacate.
He said that the government would introduce other sustainable livelihood projects for the affected farmers to boost their income.
According to Beatrice Anywar, the State Minister for Environment, Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 percent in the early 1990s to 8.5 percent, while forest coverage has dropped from 24 percent to 12.4 percent due to farming especially in wetlands.
Kyeyune Senyonjo, the Pallisa Resident District Commissioner urged residents who want to use wetlands to seek permission from the district and get guidelines of how to use the wetlands.
Constantine Olupoti, the LCI chairperson of Kabilapayi village in Pallisa sub-county urged the residents to respect the demarcations.