|National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources (Ministry of Natural Resources - Uganda, 1995, 23 p.)|
Wetlands, commonly known as swamps in Uganda, are a resource of considerable importance, just like forests, rangelands, arable land, and open water resources.
Wetland resources in Uganda have traditionally been utilized by the people as a source of materials for construction, crafts, furniture, and as hunting and fishing areas. Traditionally seasonal wetlands and margins of permanent wetlands have been used for grazing cattle, growing crops and as a source for domestic water. In addition, they are a major habitat for wildlife resources. Despite these values, wetlands have hitherto been regarded as "wastelands" and many have been reclaimed and degraded.
When the National Resistance Movement Government came to power in 1986, it inherited a chaotic situation in the social, economic, political as well as in environmental spheres, including wetlands. However, within eight months after taking power, the Government took decisive steps to halt the destruction of wetlands. In September 1986, Government issued administrative guidelines to curtail the devastation of wetland resources. In particular, a ban on large-scale drainage schemes was imposed until such time that a more elaborate, scientifically proven and socially harmonious policy was put in place. The purpose of this was to provide the basis for environmentally sound management and rational utilisation of the wetlands resources.
Over the last few years, the Ministry of Natural Resources, in consultation with all stakeholders has prepared a National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources. The policy has now been approved by government. It is, therefore very gratifying that I present to you the National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetland Resources.
The policy aims at curtailing the rampant loss of wetland resources and ensuring that benefits from wetlands are sustainable and equitably distributed to all people of Uganda. In this respect, therefore, the wetlands policy calls for:
· no drainage of wetlands unless more important environmental management requirements supersede. sustainable use to ensure that benefits of wetlands are maintained for the foreseeable future;
· Environmentally sound management of wetlands to ensure that other aspects of the environment are not adversely affected,
· equitable distribution of wetland benefits;
· the application of environmental impact assessment procedures on all activities to be carried out in a wetland to ensure that wetland development is well planned and managed.
In order to put the policy goals and objectives into practice and to provide a legal framework for implementing the policy, wetland related issues have been adequately incorporated into the National Environmental Statute 1995. The Wetlands policy will be strengthened by a supplementary law specifically addressing wetland concerns.
The government of Uganda would like to extend her sincere thanks and appreciation to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the Government of the Netherlands and IUCN-the World Conservation Union for their financial and technical support which has facilitated the formulation of the wetlands policy. The government is further grateful to all the people of Uganda for their cooperation and participation in formulation of the policy.
With the Wetlands Policy now in place, Government wishes to assure all people of Uganda of her continued commitment to sustenance of wetlands for the present and future generations.
The onus is now on us to ensure that we conserve the wetland resources in the best way possible.
Henry Muganwa Kajura.
Minister of Natural Resources.