Millennium Development Goal 7 aims to integrate the
principles of sustainable development into our policies
and programmes as well as reversing loss of environment
resources. Richard M. Kavuma asked the executive director
of the National Environment Management Authority(NEMA),
DR ARYAMANYA-MUGISHA HENRY about Uganda’s
Are you satisfied with Uganda’s performance
on Goal 7?
In some respects, yes; in others, no. From a policy, legislative
and institutional framework angle, I think we have made
some headway. But if you look at the implementation, there
are some weaknesses.
The main government policies – Poverty Eradication
Action Plan, Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, the
district development plans – now have integrated environmental
considerations… But also the laws, starting with the
Constitution: Chapter 15 talks about land and the environment
and provides for the protection of protected areas, including
the forest reserves, the wetlands, the river banks and lake
How effectively are you able to enforce these good
Uganda of course is one of the Least Developed Countries
and therefore we do not have enough resources to do what
we would like to do, like restoring degraded hills and wetlands.
Although implementation is going on and there are river
banks, lake shore and wetlands that are recovering, there
are others that are being degraded because people are eking
a living on those resources. Therefore the question of poverty
and how it affects programmes for environment management
comes in. We would want more money to go into afforestation.
National Forestry Authority is doing a good job but the
resources are not enough
Can you realistically preach environmental resources
conservation to people whose survival depends on those resources?
Under the PMA, environment is mainstreamed and one of the
activities carried out there is awareness. Under NEMA, we
have programmes on local radio, television and workshops
at national and district levels aimed at sensitising the
communities about environmental concerns.
When you are poor and you further degrade the environment
on which you depend, then you are going to be poorer. But
sensitisation alone is not important, one must provide alternatives;
don’t do this, do this. And that is where the question
of financial resources comes in.
For instance about 97 percent depend on solid fuel:
How much does that worry you?
It is even probably higher because you have those who are
totally dependent on wood fuel like those in the villages.
And you have those in the urban areas who use wood fuel
because they cannot afford other sources like hydro power.
It worries me a lot because it leads to deforestation,
which leads to land degradation. Degraded land means that
agricultural yield will go down, which means reduced money
going into people’s pockets. But there is also the
question of food insecurity. You can see it is a vicious
How do you deal with that?
One is promoting massive afforestation by involving the
communities. Two is efficient use of the wood fuel through
use of cook stoves that are energy-efficient and those are
now being popularised by government and the NGOs.
Third is the promotion of alternative energy sources like
solar energy, biogas and mini-hydros.
Some people complain that the law only catches small
fish but can’t check big business; that projects like
Butamira, Kalangala palm oil or even Garden City were cleared
despite environmental concerns…
It is not true that the law is discriminatory. But probably
what people are not able to see are actions happening at
a low level compared to these actions happening at a very
high level. Our law provides that for development projects
which are likely to harm the environment, an Environment
Impact Assessment be carried out to identify problems likely
to arise, and propose alternatives, mitigation measures
or abandon the project altogether…..
So it is not a question of stopping per say. There must
be a reason. For example, at one time you heard that there
was going to be a development project on Constitutional
Square: Because we thought that project was out of character
with the environment, when an EIA was carried out, we disallowed
it. At one time water hyacinth on Lake Victoria was supposed
to be sprayed with chemicals. We evaluated the likely impact
and we said no, the best way to go is to use biological
control and to harvest it mechanically. And it worked. It
was a win-win situation.
Lake Victoria is very important to East Africa
but its levels have been falling
It is not only important to East Africa but for Africa and
the whole world – Apart from how it regulates the
climate…low levels also mean that shallow areas where
fish breed now don’t have water. So it will inevitably
impact on the fisheries and our fish exports.
But this lowering of the lake levels is partially self-caused…
Lake Victoria gets its water through streams and rivers.
Those streams have dried or are beginning to dry because
the wetlands around the lake have been drained by us. Vegetation
around the lake has also been cut down and that influences
the rainfall that we receive. But also by cutting it down
you are getting a lot of sediment going into the lake. So
what we are seeing is a sick and dying lake.
Goal 7 also talks about reversing of loss of environmental
resources: What do you regard as the most endangered environmental
Land, which is being degraded as a result of inappropriate
agricultural methods [like failure to provide terraces and
grass bands and overgrazing]. I have also mentioned deforestation
and wetland degradation.
What are the trends in Uganda’s forest cover
and areas protected to maintain biological diversity?
It terms of forest reserves, it is about 7 percent of the
land area. The total forest cover is between 22 and 24 percent.
That is very low compared to 1900 when our forest cover
was 45 percent.
Protected areas, Game Parks and game sanctuaries are about