Community service is key for environment protection in Uganda - UNDP Resident Representative says

Jun 9, 2017

UNDP Resident Representative - Ms Rosa Malango, planting a Mango tree at Ibanda district headquarters to commemorate the World Environment Day on 5th June, 2017. (Photo Credit: UNDP Uganda 2017)

Ibanda, Western Uganda - Ms Rosa Malango, the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative has called on Ugandans to combine existing local initiatives with new technologies and innovation to ensure that human activity does not destroy the environment as we reach for economic growth.

Speaking at national celebrations to mark the UN World Environment Day on 5th June, held in Ibanda district in Western Uganda, Ms Malango who is also the UN Resident Coordinator said smart and inexpensive ways like tree planting days at village or district level can multiply into a massive reforestation.

“I understand there was a time in Uganda when the local chief would proclaim days for ‘bulungi bwansi’ (community service),” Ms Malango observed.

“Today, we can use laws and technology to reinforce this spirit of community service without needing significant financial resources,” she added.

She called on school principals, religious and traditional leaders as well as sports celebrities to headline these initiatives as environment and community champions.

With the local theme for the day calling on communities to, “connect to nature, appreciate biodiversity,” Ms. Malango said children and the youth must be taught to respect nature, protect the environment and to learn about national heritage by visiting National Parks.

“On behalf of the UN system in Uganda I pledge our continued support to the Government and people of Uganda to pursue green growth, provide humanitarian assistance and leave no one behind. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people and government of this nation,” Ms Malango said.

Ms Malango saluted Uganda for its transformative refugee policy which provides a safe and dignified environment for those fleeing for their lives and live in settlements set up in; Isingiro, Kamwenge, Adjumani, Arua and Yumbe district.

“We recognize that the pressure exerted by refugees on the environment as they settle down is significant and in response we are working with the Government to mobilize support. This is why President Yoweri Museveni and the UN Secretary General, António Guterres will co-host the Uganda Solidarity Summit on refugees in Kampala on 22-23 June,” she disclosed.

She invited business leaders and development partners to donate and sustain the humanitarian response and the development programmes aimed at creating jobs for Ugandans and refugees during the summit.

President Yoweri Museveni, who was chief guest, said protecting the environment was not a hobby but a matter of survival for humans.

“Protecting the environment isn’t an academic exercise, it is not something you do as a hobby. It is a matter of life and death for us,” President Museveni said.

The President explained that wetlands were crucial because their water could be used for agriculture as well as irrigation. He said they are also important for rain formation and filtering water before it flows into the bigger water bodies.

“Wetlands are a habitat for creatures which are useful to us. Tourists come to see them,” the President said.

He also said called on communities to stop cutting down forests which are important sources of medicine such as antibiotic penicillin that is made from mold and quinine, used in the treatment of Malaria, obtained from Cinchona bark.

“By destroying forests we are destroying these sources of medicines,” Mr Museveni warned. “These are genetic banks. Let them stay there. As science grows, we shall get uses for them.”

Also present at the event was Ms Stephanie Rivoal, the French Ambassador to Uganda, who called on the country to fight against climate change. Observing that the most basic link for all people world over is that they inherited the planet and thus making it their duty to fight for climate justice.

Dr Tom Okurut, the Executive Director, National Environmental Authority (NEMA), agreed with her saying that the destruction of the environment and biodiversity has adverse consequences including affecting tourism which currently one of Uganda’s biggest foreign exchange earners.

World Environment Day which is celebrated every 5th of June annually is the United Nations principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment.

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