Opinion
Develop an environmental crime database
Publish Date: Jul 22, 2014
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By Agatha Ninsiima

Environmental pollution harms Ugandan society by wasting the riches of our natural resources. In particular, pollution lowers the agricultural output of our lands and threatens to contaminate our freshwater resources.

Several reports have documented our losses of natural wetlands as a result of human encroachment. In addition to the loss of biodiversity, the destruction of natural wetlands is shown to increase flooding risks.

As reflected within our law, the Government of Uganda has prioritised the protection and conservation of our natural resources. Under 1995’s National Environment Act, the National Environment Management Authority was established to improve the monitoring, supervising, and coordination of environmental management.

Within the past few years, this agency has begun to reach out to township communities so that resource users understand their responsibilities to protect and use the natural resources sustainably.

However, there is a current lack in both public availability of data on past and present violations and clear communication channels through which to report future violations. This lack of publicity and clarity hinders the management and enforcement of our existing environmental laws.

There is a pressing need for public reporting of environmental pollution, which reflects the actual scope of our national predicament.

Many of our citizens, who could otherwise stop illegal pollution are unsure of what actions they can safely take.  As a result, many egregious violations are neither reported nor documented. Most notable among these are water pollution, improper waste disposal, and deliberate misuse of wetlands.

In most cases, reports of environmental violations or pleas for investigation and enforcement action are met with explanations of a lack of capacity on the ground or with political interference. Consequently, even the most optimistic of our citizens have lost faith in the legitimacy of our government’s processes.

Disaster does not recognise borders and threatens to undermine our environmental legacy. Capturing and publishing data which reflects the reality on the ground creates compliance with our laws. Hence, let us remember that what cannot be measured and freely reported upon is impossible to manage.

The writer is a lawyer and project advocate at Advocates for Natural Resources Governance and Development (ANARDE)

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