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By Mulengera Reporters

 Despite facing enormous challenges and constraints ranging from inadequate funding to project affected persons (PAPs) demanding colossal sums of money to vacate project sites, the Luzira-based Ministry of Water & Environment (MWE) has registered tremendous accomplishments and thereby significantly contributing to the realization of President YK Museveni’s 2016 campaign manifesto promises.

The ruling party manifesto promises have been delivered by MWE through a number of directorates, departments and MDAs which comprise the water & environment sector. These include the Forestry Services Support Department (FSSD), Wetland Management Department (WMD), Environment Services Support Department (ESSD), Water for Production Department (WfP), Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Department  (RWSSD), Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Department  (UWSSD), Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry authority (NFA), Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS), National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA).

In his manifesto, Gen Museveni promised to grow wetland restoration to 15% and today, one year to the end of his term, the MWE has managed to achieve 9% restoration (bringing the same to 2,029,090ha in absolute terms). A total of 637 hectares (ha) of degraded wetlands has been restored besides another 283.7km of critical wetlands which has been demarcated with pillars. Yet that isn’t all. Critical wetlands like Katonga-Sembabule (10Hac), Mikomago-Masaka (45 Ha.), Lubigi-Wakiso (275 Ha) and Limoto-Pallisa (157.4 Ha) have been restored and protected (all totalling to 487.4 Ha).

As of 2015 when Gen Museveni’s election manifesto was being authored, Uganda’s forest cover stood at 9% which has since been grown to slightly over 12.4% still less than the 15% the NRM promised to have achieved by 2021. A multiplicity of efforts have contributed to this growth of forest cover from 2015’s 9% to current 12.4%. These include sensitization, awareness creation and strengthened enforcement. There has also been plenty of forest restoration through natural regeneration, planting of different species, agroforestry and establishment of plantations through projects like Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Project, REDD+, Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) and Community Tree Planting Programme of the NFA.

In order to deliver Museveni’s water for production-related interventions, ten (10) small scale irrigation systems have been completed in the districts of Pallisa, Bukedea, Katakwi, Tororo, Kamuli, Bugiri, Soroti, Abim, Kaabong and Mayuge. The available literature released for reflection during this year’s manifesto week further indicates that the MWE leadership also commenced the construction of six (6) medium scale irrigation schemes covering 3,976 hectares. They are different levels of completion as manifested here: Rwengaaju in Kabarole district (70%), Tochi in Oyam district (86%), Mubuku-II (480ha) in Kasese district (63%), Doho-II (1,178ha) in Butaleja district (80.5%), Ngenge (880ha) in Kween district (87.5%) and Wadelai (1,000ha) in Pakwach district (53%). Overall, Uganda’s irrigation area has grown from 15,000hac to 19,138ha against the irrigation potential estimated at 3.03m Ha.

Availability and access to facilities citizens require to comply with necessary levels of sanitation has grown to 79% for rural communities and 87.4% for urban dwellers. The total sewer network has since grown to 650kms implying 30% coverage of the whole country. NWSC, which is a key component of the water & environment sector, has extended the piped water network so far to 253 towns resulting into coverage of 17,556Km for the entire piped water network under NWSC (translating to 127.8m M3 of water supplied for the industrial/commercial customer base of 78,761). And the cumulative overall storage of water for production stands at 41.124m Cubic Meters (MCM); representing 72% of the 55MCM Gen Museveni projected as realizable in his campaign manifesto by 2021.

The countrywide water connections stand at 720,000 and the rural water coverage stands at 71% and 79.1% for urban areas. Uganda has 57,974 villages and of these 66% (or 38,517) have been served under the MWE interventions and have access to clean water. Only 19,457 villages (or 34%) remain unserved.

And there are some districts which have performed better than others when it comes to accessing clean water. Amuru district, where village coverage stands at 100%, is a good example. This stellar performance for Amuru has been attributed the district’s unique village set up under something called “Terot Kweri.”

Countrywide, a total of 35 districts have water coverage of 80% and above. Domestic water points have also been expanded to 132,341 and in the processing enabling 27, 797,316 Ugandans to have access to clean water. The 27.8m Ugandans are being served as follows; 12,333,600 are getting their water through the 41,112 deep boreholes we have in place; 6,477,000 through the 21,590 shallow wells we have in place; 5,818,400 Ugandans through 29,097 protected springs we have in place; 3,045,900 Ugandans through 20,306 PSP/Kiosk/tap stands we have in place and 121,416 Ugandans through the 20,236 rain water harvesting facilities we have in place.

In brief, the following are the targets the water & environment sector had to deliver making life better for the people of Uganda under the NRM manifesto of 2016: increasing rural areas’ access to clean/safe water from 65% to 79% and from 77% in towns to 100% by 2021. To achieve all these targets, the water & environment sector must provide a basic water source for every village in Uganda and piped water to all towns. Must also increase access to sanitation facilities from 77% to 79% in rural areas and from 84% to 100% among urban communities.

The other manifesto assignment for the MWE was to promote catchment-based integrated management of water resources and efficient water use besides ensuring that all water resources-related projects are sustained. Gen Museveni also tasked the sector leadership to deepen access to water for production and while at the same time increasing cumulative water storage from 27.8MCM to 55MCM (which is essential to support irrigation, livestock, aquaculture and rural industrialization through constructing/rehabilitating large and small water reservoirs).

The other aspect in which the officials at Luzira must support NRM manifesto implementation is through building a sustainable green economy (through restoring ecosystems, demarcating critical wetlands and forest boundaries). The other assignment was (and remains) to ensure that 100-200m trees are planted annually across Uganda. This how Gen Museveni hoped (and still hopes) to grow the national forest cover (currently at 12.4%) to 15% by 2021. The sector is also supposed to automate and pay adequate attention to climate change mitigation interventions to increase Uganda’s resilience to climate change impacts.

All said and done, the water & environment sector remains one of extreme importance because even targets like increased electricity generation are directly dependent on the country’s water and environment resources. The vastness of the sector’s role is actually the reason why many rightly consider it crucial to the realization of the country’s long term development objectives including the drive to transform Uganda from a peasant to an industrial middle income country by 2040. Among other things, to be able to sustainably industrialize, Uganda needs to leverage on its water resources to generate enough hydro-power and increase agricultural production or productivity. All the other economic activities (aimed at boosting wealth creation like livestock farming, fisheries, health services provision, industrial development, tourism development and mitigating climate and climate change effects) are equally dependent on how well Uganda manages her water resources. All this imposes the obligation on the MWE leadership to ensure prioritization goes into production of water while equally investing into infrastructure required for its delivery (leading to access) and storage as well.




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