People washing motorcycles in the river. (Photo by Wilson Asimwe
The district natural resources officer, Godfrey Ruyonga said recently during the River Mpanga catchment management meeting in Kamwenge that there was an urgent need to start controlling all economic activities taking place at the river.
Kabarole district has banned the mining of sand and crashing of stones near River Mpanga banks so as to check on water pollution.
The district natural resources officer, Godfrey Ruyonga said recently during the River Mpanga catchment management meeting in Kamwenge district that there was an urgent need to start controlling all economic activities taking place at the river.
“The people who have been involved in mining stones and sand from the river in the upper part of the river must stop because they are polluting the water,” Ruyonga said.
Pollution, Ruyonga added, gets worse in the dry season because the waste cannot be washed away as it happens in the rainy season.
Ruyonga also urged those involved in the car washing business in Fort Portal town to set up washing bays with oil intercepting tanks at least 30 to 40 metres away from water bodies.
He warned that serious measures would be taken against those who fail to comply.
Richard Rwabuhinga the Kabarole district LC5 chairman and chairman of the Mpanga catchment management committee said they are working with different stakeholders to plant trees since the impact of man on the environment is real.
“The impact of man on the environment is felt in many parts of the region where long dry spells have resulted into water scarcity, due to drying of surface rivers such as Mpanga on which the urban population depends,” Rwabuhinga said.
He said as leaders they are worried the water levels have been reducing due to uncontrolled human activities in the mountainous areas where it has its source and that there was a need to ensure that they enforce bylaws so that they can save the river which is the largest source of water for the four districts of Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kamwenge, Ibanda, and Kiruhura,” Rwabuhinga said.
In Karago, Bukuku and Karangura sub-counties young boys and men, half naked can be seen racing towards and away from the river. Others are seen seated around mounds of river sand while others are trying to load sand on huge trucks.
Depending on the size of the truck, river sand costs between sh120,000 and sh140,000. The miners also pay a monthly levy of between sh40, 000 and sh70,000 to their respective sub-county local governments.
In Kamwenge district and along the Ibanda prisons farm large sections of privately owned land around the river has been converted into farmlands and when it rains, water carries soils down into the river.
“As leaders, we shall work with every stakeholder in ensuring that we save River Mpanga from pollution and all those who are dumping garbage in our river they should stop, he added.
Aggrey Natuhamya the LC5 chairman said through the management plan they are sensitising people not to encroach on the river bank.
“It is our role and responsibility to ensure that we save River Mpanga and in conjunction with the ministry of water through the Albert water management zone we are addressing some of the challenges faced by the river like pollution and encroachment,” Natuhamya said.
The team leader of the Albert Water Management Zone, Jackson Kitamirike said they have been carrying out continuous sensitisation and training of stakeholder groups and beneficiary community members in soil and water conservation measures in the upper catchment of the river in Karaungura sub- county, Kabarole district.
He said Mpanga Management plan provides for the establishment of local environment committees, planting trees near the river banks and enforcement of environmental by-laws.
“Local environment committees have been established and hundreds of trees planted on the river banks to control silting. However, with visible results, a lot needs to be done for a healthier ecosystem. This calls for more funding into the sector to enable the implementation of the developed Catchment Management Plans,” Kitamirike said.
Edgar Muganzi the programmes officer at Natural Resources Defence Initiative (NARDI) said they had launched a campaign of planting trees along the banks of the river in the lower section of Fort Portal town.
"In collaboration with protos and the Belgian government, we are restoring the river banks of Mpanga by planting trees.
He said in the lower parts of Kamwenge where the river is joined with other tributaries the water quality had improved.
"At Mpanga hydropower dam in Kamwenge they no longer shut down the power dam due to a shortage of water because of the several interventions by different stakeholders, previously they would shut down because of shortage of water," Muganzi said.
The assistant commissioner for water resources Albert Orijab said the ministry will continue supporting local governments to protect the river.
“As a ministry, we shall continue empowering local governments with technical guidance so that they can protect the river from destruction,” Orijab said.
What locals say
Gilbert Mwesige a resident of Karago town council
When it rains it becomes very hard to mine this sand because the water is too much and moving too fast so it carries the sand very far away from here. I have been mining sand from the river since my childhood.
Phionah Birungi a resident of Karangura
We depend on the river for stones that we crash, sell and get money banning us from the river will render us jobless. We are appealing to the management committee to ensure that they get for us an alternative source of income.
Businge Masumbuko a resident of Karago
The river is being polluted by people who mine sand and stones it’s good that the management committee is coming up with a very strong resolution of banning them from carrying out their activities near the river banks.
Regina Biira a resident of Karangura
The people who have cultivated near the river banks should also be punished because they are destroying the banks and leading to flooding. And people should be sensitised on the benefits of conserving the river.