Kampala 13th August 2021. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Water and Environment and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) have partnered to implement a project which seeks to restore wetlands and promote catchment based integrated, equitable and sustainable management of water and related resources.
The ‘Restoration of Wetlands and Associated Catchments in Eastern Uganda’ project worth Euro 2,111,110 (about Shs 8.7 billion) will be implemented over a three-year period between 2021 and 2023 in eastern Uganda covering five districts of Kaliro, Namutumba, Kibuku, Budaka and Butaleja. The project is funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation and UNDP and complements the Government of Uganda, Green Climate Fund UNDP (GCF-GoU-UNDP) eight-year project titled “Building resilient communities, wetlands ecosystems and associated catchments in Uganda”, which is implemented by the Ministry of Water and Environment in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and Uganda National Meteorology Authority.
All the five districts are part of the 24 Focal Districts for the GCF- GoU and UNDP funded project. This project will therefore leverage and complement on the work that has already been done especially with engaging stakeholders and hence creating a bigger impact.
“Furthermore, and in the spirit of alignment and coordination of donor activities, we insisted that our new wetland support project is well coordinated with the broader already ongoing Green Climate Fund project on wetlands in Uganda, while we can also build on our experience in climate adaptation and wetland restauration achieved through the REPLAP project with our partner IUCN in Northern Uganda”, said Dr. Roswitha Kremser, Head of Austrian Development Cooperation in Uganda.
Unlike the GCF project, this project has a strong knowledge management component and a focus on inclusion of more women and youths, given that this category forms a big proportion of the population that depends on agriculture for livelihood.
As part of the project implementation, an inception meeting was recently held during which stakeholders were informed about project progress and outcomes, reviewed, and approved first-year project work plan and discussed and agreed on implementation modalities.
Cabinet sets up team on ecosystem restoration
During the inception workshop, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi re-echoed President Yoweri Museveni’s commitment to the restoration of wetlands in the country. “Cabinet under the leadership of His Excellency has set up a Decade of Ecosystem Restoration in Uganda” Mr. Okidi revealed.
Mr. Okidi also reiterated the decision by government to stop new factories from being built in wetlands. He reported that those who illegally occupied the wetlands, will be engaged and asked to leave while those occupying them legally will be compensated. “Politically, we have the best support that we must take advantage of,” he said.
“As a Country we are very vulnerable, our emissions are not that great, therefore, interventions especially on wetlands restoration will go a long way in reducing emissions but also significantly reducing pollution in our water bodies” said Mr. Okidi who also commended UNDP for the technical support and applauded it’s CPD for prioritizing sustainable natural resource management for improved livelihoods and climate action.
This project is aligned to the third National Development Plan (NDP III), the Uganda Vision 2040 and directly contributes to the United Nations Cooperation Framework in Uganda 2021-2025, the aspirations of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), UNDP’s new Country Programme Document (CPD) 2021-2025 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and SDGs (1, 3, 13 and 15 among others).
On her part, Dr. Roswitha Kremser, the Head of Office - ADC, noted that by supporting Uganda’s wetlands, the project is contributing to the strengthening of the country’s resilience to climate change. “This project will therefore directly contribute to Uganda’s efforts aimed at increasing the coverage of functional wetlands from 10.9% to 12% by 2025 as per Uganda’s National Development Plan III” Dr. Kremser said.
She pledged Austria’s commitment to work with the Government of Uganda, UNDP and other water sector partners in Uganda to restore wetlands and other degraded ecosystems and achieve Uganda’s developmental goals.
Wetlands have multiple ecological benefits. They serve as habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna, have esthetic and heritage values; and contain a rich biodiversity of even potentially high pharmaceutical value. They help in flood control, purification of water, the maintenance of the water table, microclimate moderation, and storm protection not forgetting they provide water for domestic use. They are howeverhighly vulnerable to changes in the quantity and quality of their water supply. The loss of wetlands could exacerbate the impact of climate change as they provide fundamental services that contribute to mitigation of such impacts.
On her part, Ms Elsie Attafuah, the UNDP Resident Representative thanked the Government of Uganda, and ADC for the partnership and great leadership in promoting natural resource management and resilient development in Uganda.
“As the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we continue to support the Government efforts in this area, and we are committed to the Presidential initiative on wetlands restoration and the vision of H.E. the President Yoweri Museveni” Ms. Attafuah said.
According to the MWE sector performance report (2019), wetland cover in Uganda was approximately 8.9 percent, from 15.6 percent in 1994. Unfortunately, the cost of environmental degradation is very high, and taking its toll on the national economy as well as on the community that directly depend on the environment. It is estimated that biodiversity loss, degradation of soil resources, and wetland encroachment costs the Ugandan economy US$197.8 million, US$87.9 million, and US$ 782,000 every year respectively.
“There are economic rewards in curbing degradation, results of a study commissioned by MWE Uganda, revealed that increased investment in water resource management, wetland protection and sustainable land management could increase per capita GDP by 9 percent by 2040, and a shift from use of fuelwood would not only reduce deforestation but could also save US$ 8 billion in government health care spending over 25 years due to reduced respiratory diseases” Ms. Attafuah noted.
The inception workshop was also attended by Country Director Brac Uganda, Dr. George Owuor Matete, Executive Director, Environmental trust of Uganda, (ECOTRUST) Pauline Nantongo Kalunda, representatives from the five District Local Governments, Representatives from Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Water and Environment and Civil society Organisations among others.