How oil exploration and other anthropogenic activities have affected 13 wetlands around Lake Albert

About 13 wetlands in Hoima and Buliisa districts are drying up due to human-induced activities threatening the lives of humans and other beings that depend on these eco-systems for survival.

The affected wetlands include Rwencururu, Nyakaralike, Wambabya and Kadiki in Kiziranfumbi Sub County, Hoima district.

Others are Hoimo wetland a confluent of river Waki that is joined by numerous streams among which include Isimba stream that joins River Hoimo in Kitoba Sub County in Hoima district to supplement the water pressure at Kabalega dam at the escarpment in Buseruka Sub County.  

Hoimo wetland has, however, changed its colour to foul black with a strong stench coming out of it. It has reportedly been polluted by Bwendero Dairy Farm; a distilling plant in Bwiragura parish in Kitoba sub county in Hoima district, burning the papyrus and other shrubs grown around.

The plant that uses sugar molasses to distil spirits and gins discharges its effluent into the stream flowing into Lake Albert through Hoimo swamp, something that has affected the biodiversity and the social life along this eco-system.

Endagered: The Flora on this wetland has died up due to high acidity resulting from distilled mollases

Besides contaminating the eco system, massive growing of high water consuming eucalyptus and pine trees within in the swamps has also contributed to serious drainage. Green radio carried an on-spot investigation and found out that Bwendero farm had also planted more than 20 acres of eucalyptus trees within the catchment area of River Hoimo and Wambabya river line to get firewood for distillation. This has led to the recession of the wetland.

Authorities at the distillation factory admit some loopholes but have promised to fix them to save the wetland.  Sam Kwebiha, the chemist and factory advisor says they have a roadmap to ensure that they comply with NEMA regulations within 5 years. He says they put up three waste containment lagoons to control the effluent from flowing into the water.

Plantation of pine and eucalyptus trees by farmers has also been cited in Kanwabarogo, Kijumba and Muruyanja wetlands in Kigaaga, Buseruka Sub County. The trees have been planted close to the swamps leading to the recession of the once water stagnant areas.

Kadri Kirungi,the Hoima district chairman says findings of the district Natural resources committee show all wetlands in Hoima Municipality have direct car washing, accessing the water freely in a range of 0-30 meter from highest water mark.

Rosemary Nyangoma, the Hoima district Natural Resources officer, says they have already started implementing council resolution to cut down all the trees planted within wetlands. She says they are doing this in accordance with the NEMA act adding that all tree plantations in wetlands will be affected.

Wambabya, Kanywabarogo and Muruyanja have already been marked by UNRA and will suffer the construction of the Kiziranfumbi-Kabare tarmac road, one of the 10 oil roads to be constructed in Hoima district. The road connects to the proposed oil refinery and international airport in Kabare parish. Besides, the construction of power line and feeder road developments to the proposed refinery has also had a direct impact on these wetlands as electric polls and feeder roads pass through these ecosystems especially in Kiziranfumbi Sub County.

Lucy Mbuubi, a member of Butimba Sustainability Conservation Association in Kiziranfumbi sub county says the drying of these wetlands will gradually influence climate change, thus affecting their dependences on agriculture.

Nicholas Magara, the Western Uganda coordinator for wetland management at the ministry of water and Environment, told community Green Radio that the ministry has already instructed NEMA to reclaim and demarcate all the wetlands encroached on by the human activities.

In Buliisa the affected wetlands include, Kamonkure and Kigwera. These wetlands are part of the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Wetland System at its confluence with Lake Albert (The Ramsar site).

This delta forms a shallow area that is important for water/lake birds. This wetland stretch also works as breeding ground for Lake Albert fisheries, containing indigenous fish species. It also forms a feeding and watering refuge for wildlife during dry seasons. However, fishermen have settled there causing drainage.

The recession of these wetlands and rivers flowing into Lake Albert, have squarely contributed to the continuous recession of the lake too, according to communities who are direct beneficiaries of this ecosystem.

This Article has been authored by Robert Katemburura with Support from African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)