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.
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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