Date: Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Source: New Vision (Uganda) - AAGM
Author: Winnie Nanteza
Juliet Nalwanga lives on the fringes of Kampala in Bwaise slum, Kawempe division. A wooden tin shack is what she calls home."When it rains, life is hard," the mother of three says. "My home always floods."
To leave home during the rainy period, Nalwanga has to part with cash to be carried by men across the flooded zones. Sometimes it is so bad that Nalwanga and her three children have to relocate to the village.
However, there are other people who have nowhere to go. According to the UN Habitat report 2009, the population density in Kampala is so high, about 12 families occupy a single plot of land.
According to the report, about 1.5 million people live in slums in Kampala. The wetlands and swamps have now been turned into residential areas because of the increase in population.
This has caused environmental damage. In Kampala, damage to wetlands and swamps has resulted in floods, especially in Kalerwe, Bwaise, Kawempe, Zana, Ndeeba, Bwaise and Kanyanya.
In the east and north east of Uganda, mudslides and floods are becoming common.
Why population has gone up?
The 20-year stability and improvement in livelihood and child mortality, coupled with a high fertility rate have contributed to a population growth rate of 3.3% compared to the global average of 1.1%. This make makes Uganda one of the countries with the fastest growing populations in the world.
Eighty percent of the Ugandan population relies on resources like land and lakes for livelihood. Ninety nine percent uses firewood and charcoal for cooking, putting a strain on the natural resources.
According to a Population Reference Bureau policy brief, population growth is one of the major contributing factors to loss of forests, wetlands and shortage of agricultural land.
"Trends such as the loss of half of the planet's forests, the depletion of most of its major fisheries, and the alteration of its atmosphere and climate are closely related to the fact that human population expanded from mere millions in prehistoric times to over six billion today," says Robert Engelman of Population Action International.
Rwandume Mugizi, the Kampala City Council (KCC) environment inspector, says Kampala has swallowed up the greenery that once covered the empty hills and valleys.
As the wetlands, which used to hold enormous quantities of water become no more, the city has begun witnessing a catastrophe. More wetlands in Kampala have been cleared for human settlement and industries.
When the floods hit Kampala early this year, the former minister of environment, Dr. Kezimbira Miyingo, issued a directive that all houses in wetlands be demolished. However, owners opposed the directive, claiming they did not know they were building on wetlands.
The problem of flooding is so severe in the Kampala suburbs of Kalerwe, Kisenyi and Bwaise that tenants shift to other areas to escape the floods. Latrines are built above water streams.
During rainy seasons, the area residents often open a hole to release faeces from the latrines. The rain then washes the faeces into streams, from where they fetch water. Many people have no toilets and incidents of people using polythene papers as toilets is common.
NEMA steps up campaign
Robert Wabunoha, a senior environmental lawyer of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), says the Government has come up with new environmental laws to protect the ecologically sensitive areas such as wetlands.
Wabunoha says many people in Kampala have, over the years, built houses in the valleys where water naturally flows. Because the water has nowhere else to go, it floods people's homes.
In May this year, KCC received about sh12b from the World Bank to boost the fight against flooding in Kampala suburbs.
The money was for reconstruction and rehabilitation of high risk areas, starting with a 3.6km drainage channel in Bwaise. Part of the channel was constructed, but it has not been helpful in controlling floods.
Early this year, KCC was finalising efforts to gazette the Nakivubo wetland as a protected area to stop fresh encroachment on it, after which efforts will be diverted to saving Kinawataka wetland.
The growing population of Uganda, especially around urban areas, has adversely affected the environment. In the last three decades, wetlands and green cover has been completely wiped away from Kampala, which was once a green area.
According to the 2002 population census, 12% of Uganda's population lived in the urban areas. The United Nations indicated that by 2007, 3.7 million Ugandans lived in urban areas.
According to Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, Kampala's population in 2010 is about 1.6 million people.
In 2009, the estimated world's annual growth rate was about 1%, down from 2.2% in 1963, and the world population stood at over six billion people. Current projections show a steady decline in the growth rate, leading to a peak in the population at around nine billion by the year 2050.
Impact of a huge population
The recent rapid increase in human population over the past two centuries has raised concerns that humans are beginning to overpopulate the earth, and that the planet may not be able to sustain present or larger numbers of inhabitants.
Studies show that the current population expansion and accompanying increase in usage of resources is linked to threats to the ecosystem.
It is possible for sparsely populated areas to be overpopulated as such areas may have a meagre or non-existent capability to sustain human life.
Already this is beginning to show in Uganda. Although access to water has improved, (67% of the population has access to an improved water source), it takes an average Ugandan over 30 minutes to collect water.
Rural households are also increasingly spending more time looking for firewood. Overpopulated places compete for the basic life-sustaining resources, hence a diminished quality of life. Increase in time for collecting water or fuel impacts on women more. Girls cannot complete their education, thus early marriage and childbearing which starts a cycle of poverty.
Despite the increase in population density in world cities, the UN Habitat says in its report that urbanisation may be the best solution to managing the rising global population.
Cities concentrate human activity within specified areas, limiting the extent of environmental damage. But this mitigating influence can only be achieved if urban planning is significantly improved.
Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)