The Uganda national Wetlands Day celebrations were held for the first time in Arua district, West Nile region of Uganda, at the Arua hill grounds under the theme “Urban Wetlands: prized land, not wasteland,” The Guest of Honor was the State Minister of Finance; Gabriel Gadison Ajedra Aridru representing the Right Honorable Prime Minister; Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
Exhibitions on display came from UWEC, NEMA, Ndejje University, NWSC, Environment Alert and ECOTRUST to mention a few. A parade of 48 police officers, cultural and traditional dancers as well as district primary school pupils provided entertainment.
The West Nile region hosts the largest number of refugees in Uganda, which poses a threat to the wetlands. According to the District Chairman of Arua, Enyau river, the main source of water in the district has been frequently tampered with resulting into suffering of the urban population. He suggested that the law against encroachment and degradation of wetlands be fully enforced. Collins Oloya, working in the Wetlands Department at The Ministry of Water and Environment presented a map of Arua’s wetlands to the district chairperson for guidance in land use planning.
UNDP has in this financial year offered USD 24 million to the Ministry for restoration of wetlands in over 10 districts and also developed the National Wetlands calendar. The UNDP Resident Coordinator Rora Malango added that this contribution would have vast benefits on Uganda’s eco-tourism.
Continuous encroachment of wetlands over the years has led to increased cases of flooding and reduction in water quality, property damage and disease. The chief guest appealed to everyone to be a game changer by using wetlands wisely, participating in restoration efforts and being part of the policy implemented by the Ministry of Water & Environment. He also emphasized the importance of due diligence checks before issuing of permits to contractors.