Uganda National Wetlands Policy Review 23 Years in the Making Finally Kicks off

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The government of Uganda officially embarked on a journey that will see them review their National Policy for the Conservation of Wetlands and Management of Wetland Resources (NPCMWR), 23 years since it was last put in place. Over the years Uganda has lost about 570,000 hectares of Wetlands. The Uganda atlas places the cost of Wetlands destruction at nearly Uganda Shillings2 Billion (over approximately USD 500,000) annually. It costs Uganda shillings 38 Billion (over USD 900,000) to treat water from contaminated water resources which is partly caused by reduced buffering capacity of wetlands. Speaking during the recent state of the nation address, H.E. President Yoweri Museveni warned Ugandans against degrading wetlands and forest as he called for protection of the environment to avoid climate change effects.

The review process is spearheaded by the Government of Uganda- Ministry of Water and Environment (MoWE), with support from Wetlands International and Care International in partnership with Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO) under the PfR Uganda programme. Together, they organized a High -level National Stakeholders dialogue and consultative Workshop held on 12th June 2018, as part of the inception phase for the review and hosted over 90 different organisations/ institutions/ corporate companies and stakeholders working in wetlands conservation.

                                       Participants listen in on a session 

The main objective of this process is to undertake a diagnostic evaluation of the performance and implementation of the NPCMWR since 1994 and update the Wetlands Bill, 2009. The aim is to improve the NPCMWR by incorporating current aspects of wetlands management captured in varying environmental related policies and law promulgated after 1995 both nationally and internationally.  Speaking at the workshop in the capacity of the MoWE Permanent Secretary, the Commissioner of Uganda’s Urban Water and Sewerage Services, Eng. Dominic Kavutse, called for the enactment of Law to ensure the Wetlands Management Department of the MoWE is empowered to take action, address the gaps as well as ably oversee the emerging issues affecting wetland management in the country.

                                        Commissioner of Uganda’s Urban Water and Sewerage Services, Eng. Dominic Kavutse delivers the PS’s speech 

I among Topics raised and discussed during the workshop include inter alia; the need to define wise use of wetlands, a call for better support towards policy implementation, the gap between science, policy and practice, sustainable and equitable water resources, socio-economic and environmental impacts of degradation, alignment with development priorities, restoration of drained wetlands, community participation, alternative livelihoods and capacity building for the implementing agencies. Participants urged the government agencies to collaborate and work together in wetlands conservation to minimize conflicting interest, replication of roles and enhance coordination and proper facilitation of activities during implementation.

                                                       A participant makes their contribution during the discussion

Led by Prof. Emmanuel Kasimbazi the lead consultant in the review process, the dialogue also explored the use of a participatory and inclusive approach where stakeholders had the opportunity to share their input, expectations and recommendation for the process with the team. Prof Kasimbazi kick-started the process by presenting his finding from the Regulatory Impact Assessment.

                                                  Prof Emmanuel Kasimbazi the lead consultant in the review process presents his findings 

Lorna Kobusingye, from Wetlands International and PfR’s representative in the dialogue, reaffirmed the program’s commitment to support the process and thanked the Government for its continued effort towards fulfilling its conservation mandate. She urged participants to explore an integrated approach in their work and the need to upscale partnerships between conservationists and development organisations, given that development and search for better livelihood is the major driver of degradation.

                                                Lorna Kobusingye, from Wetlands International and PfR’s representative in the dialogue, addressing the participants 

This is the first step in the review process after which the team will move to the 4 regions where it will hold similar workshops in order to Review of the Legal, Policy and Institutional Framework of the wetlands management and identify the gaps as well as make recommendations for amendment. The revised NPCMWR and Draft Bill are scheduled for presentation to the cabinet by 31st October 2018. PfR is also reviewing the Climate Change Policy and National Disaster Preparedness Policy for Uganda.

PfR is a strategic partnership is an alliance of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in areas of humanitarian, development, climate and environment. PfR works to build and strengthen community resilience by integrating Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Ecosystem Management and restoration (EMR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) – referred to as Integrated Risk Management (IRM Approach. In Uganda, the alliance is composed of CARE International in Uganda, CORDAID, Uganda Red Cross, Red Cross Climate Centre and Wetlands International. The current phase is implemented in 9 other countries; Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Philippines, India, Indonesia, South Sudan and Haiti. In Uganda, PfR SP (2016-2020) aims to mainstream IRM Approaches and Principles into selected National Policies (National Climate Change policy, National Wetland Policy and National Disaster Preparedness and Management policy), Investments and Practices. PfR SP also contributes to the implementation of International frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals, SENDAI framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, Paris Agreement on Climate Change, RAMSAR Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. PfR SP conducts regular dialogues with key policymakers and practitioners (CSOS, Academia, Private Sector, Researchers etc) with the aim of promoting IRM. At the center of the PfR agenda are vulnerable communities keeping gender perspectives and the marginalized groups in focus. PfR SP builds on past engagements from Partners for Resilience 1 (2011-2015) in Uganda whose aim was to reduce the impact of hazards on vulnerable communities.