Otuke RDC says district councilors ‘ignorant about values of wetlands’
Last Updated on: 20th February 2022, 01:36 pm
Most of the district councilors are not informed and they do not understand the values of wetlands, said Otuke RDC.
By Acipa Doreen
Lira – February 20, 2022: The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Otuke, Christopher Omara has exposed the low level of knowledge and understanding of the Otuke councilors.
The RDC who spoke to TND News in an exclusive interview on February 17, said the district councilors need “a capacity strengthening training”.
“This will help the councilors to link up the environmental destruction to the community livelihoods since they interact with the locals most times,” Omara added.
“The community needs to be informed about wetland destruction and rainfall formation and their livelihood which is agriculture,” Omara, who represents the President in the district, added.
He added that continuous engagement is a preferred means at the moment because there is a need to disseminate the rules, guidelines, and laws against the destruction of wetlands.
“That can only be done by the district leadership from the grass-root level.”
Omara has advised everyone to be responsible for managing the environment because the Ministry of Water and Environment will not be available in the district.
The stakeholders at the district such as senior environment officers and national resource officers are very few, there is a need for continuous engagement of government structures both from the local council one to the top councilors in the district, he noted.
The MPs have to pay keen attention during budget allocation to the district levels, he said, adding, “The budget allocated to the national resources department is always very small.”
Otuke is one of the districts in Lango where wetlands are abused, and trees, especially shea but trees are cut down for charcoal making.
The RDC emphasized that the district councilors who come out with the budget and oversee the activities in the district needs capacity strengthening to be informed.
“Some of them do not understand the values of wetlands and they may not be in a position to link up the environmental destruction to the community while talking to them.”
Currently, there is a prolonged drought in the district and across Lango in what experts and environmental activists say it’s as a result of abusing wetlands and cutting down trees.
Omara wants stakeholders to continue with a serious engagement with the community: religious leaders, cultural institutions, women and youth leaders need to be brought on board to win the fight.
According to Omara, most of the destruction is done by youth who are trying to earn a living, and yet there are alternative ways like fish farming, poultry, piggery, and beekeeping which brings better income after selling the products.
“If people change their mindset, then wetland destruction will be history,” he concluded.
The district natural resource officer of Otuke district, Boniface Ebong said that over 50% of wetlands in the district are being encroached.
Early this month, teams from the ministry of water and environment alongside NEMA visited Otuke district in a bid to restore the Adwir Pida-Oget wetland ecosystem.
Ebong said it is one of the most important wetland ecosystems that serve water to the district. “If the wetland is not protected, the water system will go low and the town will not have enough water,” Ebong told us.
Adair Pida Oget wetland is found in Otuke town council and partly covers Orum sub-county.
“Different wetlands in Otuke district were inspected and farmers who were found cultivating the wetlands for seasonal crops were given a grace period of three months to evacuate, and those who may think that they will disobey the orders will be arrested and convicted in courts of law,” Ebong revealed.
The grace period elapses at the end of March this year.
TND News has learned that some of the plantations with perennial crops were destroyed in Otuke in December 2021.
There has been a conflict in the use of wetlands across the district and many want to use it in different ways. Most of the wetlands in Otuke are being used for crop cultivation and up to over a quarter of the hector is taken up. This is against the law, according to Ebong.
The International Wetland Right Use Concept was made in 1971 in the town of Ramsar, Iran. It requires that wetland must be used sustainably for the benefit of present and future generations.
Patrick Onyanga is a senior environment officer of Otuke district. He said the community had demarcated Ogwete wetland with concrete pillars and bamboo for their personal use. It covers up to 27 Kilometers.
“But the directorate of water resource management team under the ministry of water and environment came in the second week of February 2022 and restored the wetland,” Onyanga added.
The 1995 Constitution Article 39 says that every Ugandan has the right to a clean and healthy environment, therefore it is the responsibility of every member of the community to protect the environment.
According to Onyanga, the team was also supervising and monitoring different enterprises under water and environment cooperatives in the district.
The enterprises include beekeeping, fish farming which he said the members are done with the digging of fish ponds and only waiting for the startup capital from the ministry.
He added that a group of women was trained to construct cooking stoves in Ogor sub-county and they have made over 700 cooking stoves.
Francis Abola is the LC 5 chairman of Otuke. He said (his) people are misusing the wetlands. “After traveling to different places in the country like Kibuku where I realized that people in those areas do not respect wetland laws.”
However, Abola said they are doing everything possible to stop the wetland misuse, saying there are already wetland committees formed in all the parishes and by-laws set in place to deal with encroachers.
Otuke district has over 50 wetlands stretching from River Moroto on top of other several smaller wetland ecosystems known by different names according to a particular village.
Some of the wetlands are Okociwa, Amoja adolo, Amunya, Adwari, and Adwir pida-Oget.
Wetland misuse is a very serious concern in the country right now and President Museveni recently said every wetland that has been destroyed should be restored.