Sunday, July 21, 2019
Wetaya Richard

Wetaya Richard

I have more than five years’ working experience in the media industry.

I wield a skilful pen as a writer and Iam presently one of the most proficient features writers at the "Features Desk" of the “New Vision”- Uganda’s leading premier Newspaper.

At the “New Vision”, I have given a good account of myself as a features writer and that has shown in my well thought out and deeply researched human interest stories, which have been published on topics such as maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancies, climate change, the importance of cultural customs, rising sexual harassment in Uganda’s health sector; amongst other topics.

Several of my standout feature stories have been published in the "Big Read" section of the New Vision.

For good measure, I also write for my personal blog called MasaabaChronicles.com.

Before I joined the New Vision, I had worked a broadcast Journalist with Signal FM radio in Mbale, Eastern Uganda.

My weekly show packed a punch and was very popular with the youth demographic in Eastern Uganda.
It was an informative and educative programme that essentially encouraged the youth to embrace initiatives that bring a value to their lives.

I am also into worthy causes.

Last year, I was awarded a medal and certificate for my participation in the Journey of Hope marathon walk; a walk whose set objective was to reverse the flow of child trafficking and unsafe migration from Karamoja-in the North-East of Uganda.

The 18 day- 467 walk began in Kampala-Uganda’s capital city and ended in Napak-Karamoja.

Iam also into marathon running for worthy causes.

For the last two years, I have excelled in the MTN Marathon.

I was the best runner from the New Vision and have gotten medals for my efforts.

My professional goal is to be able to open new horizons for myself as a multi media Journalist and to spread my wings as a writer; beyond my current environment.

I want to be able to bring my writing skills to bear with other platforms.

I believe writing further beyond my current environment will sharpen my creative writing skills for the better.

Other interests

Playing basketball-Several medals and Certificates recieved for playing the game
Philanthropy
Traveling
Writing Poetry
Hip Hop

Phone Contact-+256756096335
Email--jayrichards3@gmail.com

 Wearing tattered clothes, 11 year old Daniel Madibo, 14 year old Fred Kamba and 12 year old Kassim Njalira trod quietly on the busy Jinja- Kampala highway.

The trio (street kids from Iganga) had moved by foot for days and pitched camp for a day at Nakibizi in Jinja.
The next day they continued their journey to Kampala which in their reckoning would be a better place to beg.

The piping hot afternoon sunshine did not seem to faze them as they moved.
Madibo, Kamba and Njalira looked drained of energy but they kept wending their way.
They anticipated being in Kampala, Uganda's biggest metropolis, in the first week of July.

But as it turns out, Madibo, Kamba and Njalira are metaphorically walking into a lion’s den, incognizant of 
impending draconian measures that were to applied against all street children in Kampala. 


Last week, the State Minister for Youth, Florence Nakiwala announced that all street children in Kampala would be rounded up and sent to street child reform and rehabilitation centers.

The issue of street children had however already sprung up on the Ugandan Cabinet’s radar.
A few weeks, before Nakiwala's proclamation, Simon Lokodo, the ethics and integrity minister, had pronounced that Cabinet had agreed to construct specialised facilities in Masulita in Wakiso district and Koblin in Moroto district to accommodate street children.

“The issue of street children has for long given us a bad image.  In the decisions taken by the cabinet on June 18, we shall get these kids a place where they can attain regular education,” Lokodo told Masaabachronicle, pointing at negligence by parents as the major driver of children to the various streets.

The Lokodo announcement was made in the aftermath of a Cabinet debate on the plight of street children.
A majority of the Ministers had agreed that the presence of begging Karamojong children on the streets mars the country’s image.

Col. Shaban Bantariza, the deputy government spokesperson told journalists on Monday at the Uganda Media Centre that: “Street kids are a menace and degrade the image of the country and some of them are even used by other people to attract people’s sympathy so that they can give them money.”


Earlier in May, the minister for Karamoja affairs, Eng. John Byabagambi;  had in a letter addressed to the Inspector General of Police and  the Ministry of Internal Affairs directed that, all Karamojong street children be repatriated back to Karamoja in an operation called ‘Back Home Campaign for Karamoja Children.’

“As you may be aware, the issue of street children in Karamoja and neighbouring towns is becoming a national challenge. Basing on the fact that most of these children come from Karamoja, the purpose of this letter is to direct you to resume the operations and have these children back to Karamoja sub-region and be re-united with their families,” he wrote.

Byabagambi said reception centres in Masulita and Koblin had been constructed to enhance the rehabilitation process of the children, which includes education and re-uniting them with their parents.


Push-Pull factors

Damon Wamara, the country director of Dwelling Places a Christian non-governmental organisation that rescues and rehabilitates Street Children says the race for cheap labour, poor parenting and child trafficking for financial gains are some of the reasons that are pushing children on the streets.

 “Some street children are trafficked into the city for personal gains,” Wamara says.

Huge numbers

A recent report by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), indicates that the number of street children in Uganda has increased to 10, 000, mainly in Kampala.

Wamara told Masaabachronicle that 15, 000 children are living on the streets in Kampala.

Calling upon parents to protect and provide for their children, Lokodo said street children, especially those from his home region, Karamoja, are being used by crafty people to stay on streets for business reasons.

 “We have a big number of street children from Karamoja. They are speaking our language, which shows they are our own children, and this gives us a bad image. But we have established that they are being used by other people for business purposes,” he said.

Col. Shaban Bantariza, the deputy government spokesperson told journalists on Monday at the Uganda Media Centre that: “Street kids are a menace and degrade the image of the country and some of them are even used by other people to attract people’s sympathy so that they can give them money.”

Why the street

According to Martin Kizza, a commissioner for children at the National Council for Children, some children due to peer influence ran away from their homes—‘thinking life is good in Kampala’.

“Most children on streets tell us that they have parents, and it is them that send them to the streets to beg money,” he said.

Experts argue that the continued presence of children on streets is largely rooted in the continuous degradation of the state of parenthood in the country and rising need for cheap child labour.

Yet, according to Wamara, much as the debate by Cabinet on street children is welcome, a solid strategy must be crafted if the question of the never-ending problem of street children is to be answered.

“It is a good conversation for Cabinet to have, and we are glad that the issue of street children is now on their table. However, we want a comprehensive strategy to address the push and pull factors rather than treating symptoms,” he said.

Wamara added: “When you remove them from the streets; where do you take them?  Are there enough rehabilitation centres that can cater for these children? The 15, 000 street children is a large number that even if you combine all the children facilities in the country, you cannot take care of these children.”

Other Key interventions
 
By all accounts, an ordinance to criminalise giving money to street children on Kampala streets is also in the offing.

According to Peter Kaujju, the KCCA spokesperson, the proposal for the ordinance is in its final stages.

“We are working hand-in-hand with all agencies to ensure that we address the problem of street children in Kampala and other areas. The proposal for an ordinance to penalise people who give money to these street children,” he said.

Mondo Kyateka, a commissioner for children at the Ministry of Gender, said a national survey for street children will be conducted by government to establish the total number of street children, and ensure proper planning.

Mondo said a survey conducted in the districts of Kampala, Jinja, Iganga and Mbale indicates that there are 30, 000 street children.

In Kampala, Mondo said, there are 15, 000 street children in Kampala.

Additional reporting by David Lumu-New Vision reporter.

A month ago, as Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Environment Day in Mbale, President Yoweri Museveni, ordered for a ban on polythene bags [ locally known as Kaveera] in accordance with section 2 of the 2009 Finance Act.
The Act which stipulates a total ban on the “importation, local manufacture, sale or use” of polythene carrier bags in the country, has for the last 8 years almost had no legal force as the importation, local manufacture, sale and use of polythene carrier bags in the country has continued unabated.

A checkered past in implementing bans on Polythene [Kaveera]


Through the years, Uganda has had a checkered history in implementing laws proscribing the production and usuage of polythene bags.
In 2007, Ezra Suruma, the then Finance Minister proclaimed during the Budget speech that the government had banned the trade, production, importation and use of plastic materials.
Not much leeway was however made in enforcing and implementing the ban.
The government ban followed similar proscriptions in Zanzibar, Kenya and Tanzania and came against a backdrop of increased smuggling of polythene bags into the country.
In the legislation, the government banned the usuage of polythene bags of not more than 30 microns.
To boot, it also imposed a punitive excise duty of 120% on polythene bags and other plastic materials above 30 microns.
4 years earlier in 2002, the government had imposed excise duty of 50% on the local production of polythene and plastic containers as an action to encourage producers to develop more environment friendly alternatives and for consumers to cut down on the usuage of the plastic materials.

Needless to say, the excise duty imposition did not stop the problem as had been earlier envisaged.
In 2002 as well, the High Court ruled that rampant and uncontrolled use of polythene bags posed a danger to the environment and violated the rights of Uganda to a clean and healthy environment.
In 2015, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) declared a ban on polythene bags of less than 30 microns.
The ban, which was to be implemented in coordination with the Kampala Capital City Authority; was in line with the Finance Act 2009 and the Finance (permitted plastic bags and other plastics for exceptional use) Regulations, 2010.

To ensure the effectiveness of the ban, a stepwise approach that involved a ban on the issuance and distribution of polythene plastic carrier bags by Supermarkets was instituted.
According to Bob Nuwagira, NEMA’s senior information, Education and Communication Officer, NEMA registered a 70% success in recalling outlawed polythene from supermarkets and shops.
The implementation of the law was preceded by a public notice communication about the enforcement exercise.
At a press conference held on the 20th of May 2015, Dr Tom Okurut, the Executive Director of NEMA disclosed that in the aftermath of the ban, NEMA had harvested 7 tonnes f Kaveera, through seizure and willful handover by supermarkets.
Though there were some successes, the status quo, generally remained the same.
Why the bans have hit a snag

“The problem has been with enforcement. The hope is that the President’s directive can be heeded. The law has to be enforced in earnest, if the problem of single use plastics is going to be dealt with. NEMA owes it to the country to bring to task those who violate the ban,” Environment scientist Sam Owach opines.
“The ban on plastics has often hit a dead end on account of increasing urbanization, which has drawn forth increased consumption of plastic materials. Minimal thickness (30 microns) rules and economic tools (taxes and levies) have all not worked because of weak enforcement,” Phiona Muraza, an environmental engineer, says.
“The failure to properly market and promote eco-friendly alternatives such as paper and canvas bags by the authorities has also exacerbated the problem.”
The 2015 ban had supermarkets stocking up on eco friendly carrier bags, but their issuance and usuage was short lived.
Within a year, as a testament to failed enforcement, most supermarkets were back to issuing plastic polythene bags to their clients.
Enforcing the ban on only specific sizes of polythene was always going to be a tall order.
“The fact that the ban excluded polythene bags of over 30 microns, yet they are equally hazardous and have same environmentally degrading properties did not make sense,” Owach says.
Scholars Johnny Mugisha and Gracious Diiro of Makerere University’s Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics noted in their 2015 report entitled “Households responsiveness to Government Ban on Polythene carrier bags in Uganda” that the exclusion of polythene bags of over 30 microns ban was a partial instrument that would be difficult to apply.
Whilst strides were made in policing the manufacture of polythene bags; it was much more difficult controlling and monitoring usuage by consumers.
“Few people were able to differentiate between banned and unbanned Kaveera and there was little effort in educating people on the difference. As such, there was confusion. If the ban had been on polythene bags of all sizes as was the case with Rwanda, there would have been headway,” Muraza says.
Experts also note that had there been an awareness campaign, for example, casting light on the dangers of the harmful industrial chemical-BPA or bisphenol found in polythene bags, there could have been a turn in the tide.
Tasked, last year, by the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee to explain his organisation’s failure to effectively implement the law, NEMA’s Executive Director-Dr Tom Okurut, without giving details, blamed the failure on crowding in the implementation of the law.
Okurut said different stakeholders involved triggered confusion and frustrated efforts to enforce the ban.
The resistance of polythene bag manufacturers also made it hard to execute the ban.
Whilst meeting NEMA officials a year ago to deliberate on the country’s environmental woes, Silas Aogon-Member of Parliament for Kumi Municipality hinted that some investors had made it a habit to run to the President whenever the ban seemed to bear down on them.

NEMA'S view on why bans have failed

Dr Daniel Babikwa, NEMA’s Director of District Support, Coordination and Public Education says the ban has hit a snag on account of people’s reluctance to observe the law proscribing Kaveera.

“Ugandans keep buying single use plastics even when they are warned about their dangers and even they are encouraged to use eco friendly alternatives. The culture here is never to observe laws and that has presented as a real challenge,” Babikwa says.

“Single use plastics have also been hard to ban because of their pervaded use across the country. Their cheap pricing is attractive to people at rank and file level in both rural and urban areas. The manufactures, needless to add, are encouraged to produce more, whilst those who market eco-friendly alternatives have faced long odds as people dread the added costs that come with using them.”

For good measure, the strong Kaveera manufacturing and trading lobby has also played havoc and frustrated the law proscribing the use of polythene bags.

“There is a law in place, but there are strong interests on the manufacturing side, bent on growing their businesses at whatever cost. With support from some circles in government, it has been a tall order making the law bear down on them,” Babikwa says.

Nuwagira echoes Babikwa’s sentiments.

“One of the reasons, NEMA has been facing challenges in enforcing the ban is the fact that plastic manufacturers have continued to protest what they supposedly say is the stringent nature of the law.
To that end, they have protested and made appeals to the government; contending that the ban interferes with their businesses. It is the reason, there was recall in the enforcement ban that was registering success in 2015,” Nuwagira explains.

“The manufactures give conflicting figures on their recycling rates to build their mileage with government.”


Recommendations

Environmental experts say environmental law enforcing agencies, specifically NEMA will have to get tough if progress is to be made.
“There have to be legal consequences for those who violate the ban. By refusing to comply, they not only endanger the environment, but also the lives of other Ugandans,” Environmental management specialist, Duncan Mugisha says.
“If NEMA gets tough and strict in its implementation of the Finance Act, there will be headway. Industrialists that manufacture polythene should be taken to task and pay heavy fines if they violate the ban,” Environmental scientist -Edmond Wangota says.
Wangota adds that supermarkets and retail outlets that supply polythene carrier bags in violation of the ban ought to be litigated.
Babikwa says NEMA can carry out enforcements but one of the proper approaches in the wake of the Presidents directive will have to be education.
“People will have to be brought to terms with the fact that the item they are so partial to is dangerous.”
NEMA has embarked on a Public education drive on the dangers of Kaveera. One of the components involves prevailing upon manufacturers to heed the ban as a means of contributing to sustainable environment management in the country,” Nuwagira adds.
“The usuage of Polycarbonate plastics should be banned outrightly. Polycarbonate plastics such as water bottles, baby bottles, plastic tableware such as plates and cups and containers for storing and reheating foods contain a harmful industrial chemical known as BPA or bisphenol.
Ugandan should be encouraged to use biodegradable or eco-friendly alternatives such as lax paper bags and canvas or cloth bags,” Muraza opines.
Several experts contend that a change in mindset would stand in a good stead.
“In general, there is need to change the mindsets of Ugandans regarding the usuage of Kaveera. There is a lot of apathy even when there are messages warning people of dangers associated with a product. There is a need to raise awareness on the dangers of polythene products amongst Ugandans of all persuasions,” Mugisha says
Global perspective
At present, 200 plus cities around the world have banned plastics.  
The European Union proposed the banning of single use plastics to help protect aquatic life, close to a month ago. 
Rwanda launched a nationwide awareness campaign on the dangers of plastic pollution a month ago. 

@rwetaya
For a sector that scored the most increment (66%) in the recently passed 2018/19 budget, Uganda’s Water and Environment ministry still has to limp through most of the financial year, as the allocation still falls short of responding to the budgetary targets of the different agencies.

A boost from last year’s sh632b, the sector’s allocation of sh1.27 trillion is meant to support and manage Uganda’s water resources, diverse ecosystems and biodiversity in the next financial year.

Earmarked as one of the key drivers for the attainment of the National Development Plan II and Vision 2040, the increment in funding to the water and environment sector implies that players, such as the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the National Meteorological Authority will have an enhanced resource envelope to execute their mandate.

NEMA has, for instance, been allocated a total of sh13.095b, up from sh9.2b, this financial year. However, this still leaves the environment watchdog with a sh22.73b funding gap.

NEMA needs sh14.5b to support its decentralized management function at the district and municipal level; sh3.5b to support the restoration of ecosystems and sh1b to execute its public education, environmental literacy, capacity building and sensitization programmes.

It also requires sh880m to support the management of environmental aspects of the oil and gas sector; sh750m to cater for the management of electronic waste; sh800m to strengthen its regional offices in Mbale, Lira, Mbarara and Masindi; sh800m to enhance monitoring and compliance in the wake of the President’s directive and sh500m to support the function of lead agencies through a multisectoral approach.
According to Mike Nsereko, NEMA’s director of policy, planning and information, for the authority to perform optimally, the funding gap will have to be bridged through other means.

With a budget allocation of sh35.5b against last year’s sh21.18b, the National Forestry Authority should make significant inroads in achieving its objectives, which include managing and restoring the country’s central forest reserves, establishing new tree plantations and supplying tree seedlings and forest and non-forest products and services, such as licenses in the new financial year.
The forestry authority is heavily reliant on aid and internally-generated funds at 67% with government taking up only 33%.
NFA had budgeted sh18b for the restoration, planting, demarcation of forest borders and prevention of further encroachments on forest reserves. Of this, Leo Twinomuhangi, the co-ordinator of planning at the authority, says sh8b is earmarked for the green development strategy, which involves increasing tree planting in the country.

Speaking at the closure of celebrations to mark the Water and Environment Week in Mabira Forest in March, Levi Etwodu, the director of natural forests at the forestry authority, said the amount of money needed for operations to restore the depleted forest would amount to sh100b.

WETLANDS, FORESTS DEPLETED
Forest coverage in the country has reduced to 9% from 11% in 2016 due to deforestation.
In addition, Uganda has been having a declining wetland ecosystem particularly in peri-urban areas.
A 2014 Ministry of Water and Environment report put the national wetland coverage at an estimated 10.9% of the land cover, down from 15.6% in 1994.
The country has also been grappling with low resilience to climate change and increased dumping of pollutants in urban wetlands, among other environmental challenges.

At the 10th joint technical review of the water and environment sector last month at Hotel Brovad in Masaka, Dr Gorretti Mary Kitutu, the Minister of State for Water and the Environment, acknowledged that the ministry had not adequately enforced the pertinent laws and regulations that outlaw the degradation of forests and wetlands.

“The depletion of the country’s natural ecosystems explains the increased episodes of floods landslides and the grave effects of climate change. An increment in funding will help the environment sector tackle these challenges,” Bruce Rukundo, an environment management specialist, says.

WHY CONSERVE?

LOSE NATURE, LOSE MONEY

Forestry plays a pivotal role in rain-fed agriculture, which currently is the back bone of Uganda’s economy.
Unfortunately, forest land cover in the country has been declining at a rate of 1.8% per annum, with the highest losses occurring in well stocked tropical high forest (2%) and woodlands (2%).
According to a 2012 NEMA report, the total annual contribution of forests to the national economy was estimated at $154.8m.
The forestry sector contributes about 6% to Uganda’s GDP.
Wetlands, on the other hand, cover about 15% (31,406sqkm) of Uganda’s total area.
Wetland encroachment costs the Ugandan economy about $1.2m per year according to a 2004 state of the environment report by Yakobo Moyini.

Encroachment leads to loss of traditional grazing land, water storage capacity (groundwater), biodiversity, and pollution of water bodies.

A 2013 assessment of the total economic contribution of wetlands in three agro ecological zones in Uganda produced updated results on the per hectare net benefit of wetlands.
For the three agro-ecological zones of southwestern farmlands, Lake Victoria crescent and the Kyoga plains, the net economic benefits of wetlands were valued at $11,358, $10,388 and $10,948 per hectare per year, respectively.

TAKE FROM UGANDA’S MINISTRY OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENT

Sam Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, says while the sh1.27trillion allocation for the environment protection may not suffice, the ministry is still on course in working toward achieving the sector’s National Development Plan II goals and Vision 2040 targets.

“The Government remains committed to overcoming the challenges facing the water and environment sector, but currently, the funds are limited and there are competing demands,” Cheptoris explains.

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