By Francis Kagolo
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has warned of likely severe disasters like landslides, lightning and floods ahead of the peak of the current rain season.
Addressing the press at the NEMA House in Kampalaon Wednesday, environment experts called for increased sensitisation campaigns for people to depart disaster-prone areas in time.
“The meteorology department’s prediction is that we are now towards the peak of the rain season. But soils have already received enough moisture and are now saturated,” said Dr. Festus Bagora, NEMA’s director for natural resources.
He added, “Rainstorms will find the ground wet and are likely to cause floods and landslides. People should be prepared; we are likely to have catastrophic incidents.”
In the recent past Uganda has witnessed catastrophes including landslides, lightning, floods, drought, fires and earthquakes which have worsened in the last decade due to global warming resulting from widespread environmental degradation.
NEMA’s latest report shows that weather-related disasters killed 1,102 Ugandans and affected close to 3.4 million others mostly between 2007 and 2013.
Of the deaths, 508 accrued from landslides, 191 from lightning, 150 from earthquakes, and 40 from floods among other catastrophes.
More disasters have happened this year. At least 100 households were left homeless in Ngetta and Lira Sub Counties in Lira district and six people admitted in critical condition at Lira Regional Referral Hospital after heavy rains demolished their houses last month.
According to Dr. Goretti Kitutu, NEMA’s environment information systems specialist, lightning should come first on the list of worries to safeguard against because Uganda is ranked second among the lightning-prone countries in the world.
“During rain, you can only be comfortable when you are in Karamoja. Otherwise, almost the rest of the country is prone to lightning,” she said, asking the education ministry to procure lightning arresters for schools countrywide.
Bagora, who last month sensitised residents of Manafwa district in the Mount Elgon region about landslides, said all Uganda’s highlands are prone to mudslides because they are steep and receive higher volumes of rainfall.
“Residents of highlands are normally reluctant to relocate from their homesteads mainly due to cultural attachments. But it is now time to resettle them on safer slopes,” he suggested.
NEMA’s Natural Resources Management Specialist on Soil and Land Use Dr. Festus Bagoora and Public Relations Officer, Naomi Karekaho addressing Journalists about the weather changes and environmental degradation at NEMA offices. Photo by Abou Kisige
The rainfall forecast released by the Ministry of Water and Environment shows that normal rains will continue up to May while some parts of the country will receive above normal rains.
Eastern and south eastern districts will have near normal rains, with the rain season expected to peak in April through early May.
In the northern districts, the steady rains will peak around late April to early May.
In the western region, the rains were expected to peak around late March to early April. The region is expected to receive near normal to more rain than usual.
Rains in the central and Lake Victoria basin areas will intensify and peak around mid-April. The cessation is expected around late May to early June.
Releasing the forecast early last month, Michael Nkalubo, the commissioner for meteorology said weather forecasts are up to 70% accurate.
This means that some areas expected to receive normal rains may experience flood situations, while other areas expected to get a lot of rain, may experience poor rainfall distribution.
NEMA has called for the intensification of reforestation efforts, explaining that forests had the capacity to block most disasters including lightning and floods.
“We are struggling to have economic growth yet whenever we get disasters, they push us backwards. We need to conserve the environment to safeguard ourselves,” Dr. Kitutu said.