Kampala. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said yesterday the current drought ravaging East African region was partly blamed on destruction of wetlands and large scale land degredation.
Addressing the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) plenary session, he said although insufficient rains was causing a lot of worries across the region, increased human activities on the local water catchment areas was another cause of the disturbing situation.
He said as late as two years ago the region had recorded appreciable rains which saw the level of Lake Victoria rising closer to a record height in 1964 but that the water level had since dropped sharply due to declining rains, especially last year..
The recorded highest level of water above the mean level in the lake was recorded in 1964 during which it reached 13.6 metres when the East African region recorded highest rains. In 2015, the water level went up to 12.6 metres.
President Museveni said prayers for rains currently witnessed across East Africa would not help improve the situation because large scale destruction of the had contributed to failure of rains in many inland areas.
He said much of the region’s interior gets about 40 per cent of rains from evaporated water from inland lakes, rivers and wetlands but according to him, the marshlands have now been turned into farms or drained into human settlements. About 60 per cent of rains is derived from evaporation from the oceans.
Soil erosion due to poor farming methods and draining of marshlands for irrigation projects have worsened the situation, he explained.
“This is very serious. Yes, we do irrigation but we have to be careful. We have to restore wetlands not to carelessly cultivate it. We have to preserve water and protect the catchment areas,” the Ugandan leader implored on the policy makers in the region.
He challenged the regional bodies responsible for the protection of Lake Victoria, wondering what they were doing to address a run down of serious environmental problems facing the largest fresh water lake in Africa shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
The institutions include the Lake Victoria Fisheries Research Organization (LVFRO) base in Jinja in Uganda and the Kisumu-based Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC). Both are institutions under the East African Community (EAC).
“I don’t know what these bodies are doing,” he said, citing large scale pollution of the 69,000 square kilometre lake whose bays are now covered by invasive weeds. Lake Victoria has in recent years seen depletion of fish stocks. Earlier Eala Speaker Daniel Kidega said prolonged drought was a major concern in East Africa, adding that it was largely due to the impact of the climate change, a phenomenon associated with global warming.
He called on the EAC member countries to seriously embark on conservation programmes and early warning systems to mitigate the impacts of a likely climatic disaster in the region.