By Mohamed Kimbugwe
It is commendable that loud and clear voices of some Ugandans have come out against the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline! Anything that threatens the environment to that magnitude must not go unquestioned! However, if we only find it necessary to question some threats to the environment, and not others, one can’t help but get confused! My particular interest for this post is Lwera, whose defilement I’ve shouted hoarse against over the years!
Sand mining and commercial rice farming in Lwera wetland are both an ecological and food security disaster which, through increased floods and the displacement of smallholder farmers, threatens ecological resilience, food security and food sovereignty of the people of
Kalungu in particular, and Uganda in general!
- Advertisement -
The effects on Lake Victoria have already been felt throughout East Africa. Allow me to start from a localized perspective, before embarking on a broader overview.
An estimated 80% of the community in Kalungu thrive on subsistence farming both as a source of food and livelihood, and this is directly and indirectly sustained by the wetland. Lwera, an estimated twenty-kilometer stretch, is a sophisticated water catchment and wetland that not only gives life to a variety of aquatic species, including nutritious fish but also regulates water flow into Lake Victoria. Sand mining and commercial rice farming have destroyed the wetland and increased the rate of water flow into Lake Victoria as well as water displacement, both of which have caused floods (ReliefWeb, 2020), and ravaged households.
Moreover, the commercial rice farmers are luring households into selling them their land (The Independent, 2020), which will reduce smallholder farmers into mere
employees of big farms, instead of producing their own nutritious food. According to the National Environment Management Authority
(2018), land that was helpful for food production has been reduced to pits and mines.
According to the Uganda Farmers Guide, the district is well known for nutritious indigenous food production in maize, coffee, piggery,
chicken, beans, cattle, bananas, ground nuts, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The prevention of the displacement of smallholder farmers,
strengthening their control over land and other food production resources, as well as safeguarding the environment and indigenous food varieties (Wittman et al, 2010, pp. 9-12), forms the backbone of Kalungu’s food security and sovereignty.
But like earlier said, the impact goes beyond Kalungu! During my soil science lectures, Dr. Aniku taught me that both clay and sand have the ability to kill a whole lot of disease causing organisms! If you’ve been to a conventional water treatment plant, then you’ve seen them pump water throuh sand-beds at the end of which chlorine is introduced for terminal decontamination!
Clay on the other hand has a strong cation exchange capacity that enables it to absorb out of water, a whole lot of dangerous metals like Lead and Zinc, both of which are toxic and can affect almost every major body organ! So, Lwera, just like other wetlands has both sand and clay in plenty and saves our lives on a daily basis. Its death means a number of things:
1. The Death of Water (Putrefaction)! Water has life and a whole lot of processes going on down there! However, once overwhelmed by contamination, water dies, turns greenish and can’t support life anymore!
2. Increased cost of water treatment! With the reduced role of sand and clay as natural water cleansers, the process of treating water will become increasingly complex and expensive, meaning you too will have to pay a lot more for water!
3. More devastating floods and displacement.
Lwera, just like other wetlands, holds huge volumes of water and releases it into Lake Victoria in a manner as intelligent as only nature can offer. In its absence, we shall have more regular cases of increased water levels, floods and displacement in the Lake Victoria Basin!
So to all my anti EACOP friends, help me and add a small line about Lwera on all your posters, banners and posts.
THESE ARE MY PERSONAL VIEWS AND I TAKE SINGULAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEM. THEY ARE NOT THE VIEWS OF ANY ENTITY THAT IM PROFESSIONALLY ASSOCIATED WITH.