Almost half of land in Kasese district is owned by Government — in form of national parks (Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains), lakes (Edward and George), rivers, Prisons, and Irrigation schemes (Mubuku, Ibuga and Kyempara).
I read an article in the New Vision paper of June 1 co-written by David Bwambale, titled: "Kasese Floods: Providing Relief not Sustainable Model".
In this article, the writer ably articulated an important issue in as far as addressing the disaster situation in the Rwenzori region and particularly Kasese district. Notable, was a collaborative plan for afforestation and re-afforestation, addressing high population growth rate, and most importantly, establishing an independent authority (institution) charged with disaster early detection, prevention, mitigation, response and rehabilitation.
These were indeed very critical proposals that the Government should look into. I was also excited that the writer recognised the efforts of Rwenzori Fraternity Association (Rwefra) — a grouping that is focused on contributing to sustainable development and livelihoods of their community back home.
While I entirely associate with these proposals, I believe that a very important aspect needs to be brought into the picture — and this relates to the structure of land distribution and ownership. Almost half of land in Kasese district is owned by Government — in form of national parks (Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains), lakes (Edward and George), rivers, Prisons, and Irrigation schemes (Mubuku, Ibuga and Kyempara).
This leaves a small strip of low land available for habitation and agriculture, and this can only be accessed by a few individuals. This has left people to concentrate on the highlands and equally move to the river banks which are seen as more fertile and productive. The reason why the most affected sub-counties are largely on highlands and in river valleys is because they are the most densely populated and have fragmented the small habitable land and subjected it to all sorts of activities. This has exposed the land to risks of erosion, mudslides and floods. In fact, individuals have taken over riverbanks, changed the course of the rivers, and what we see now is mother-nature trying to fight back.
The fact of the matter is that these floods will keep reoccurring if deliberate actions are not done to carb human activity on the river banks despite the many interventions being undertaken and yet population in the area is equally increasing amidst the small available low land for agriculture.
A feasible sustainable solution to the Kasese floods must look into a comprehensive plan that includes resettling people living on the river banks to the low lands.
Several options come to mind for consideration to resettle people from the river banks which are flood-prone areas as part of the sustainable solution;
Firstly, the Government should consider degazetting some low-lying Government land in Kasese district and allow the inhabitants on the river banks in the highlands to occupy the area. An example is a group of people who were resettled at Hima area who have since started a new life there.
Secondly, the Government should consider resettling people living on the river banks permanently like they did in Bududa where people have been taken to Bunambutye in Bulambuli district and government has built for them houses and a new community has emerged and they have started a new life.
And lastly, after resettlement, declare the river banks up to a certain number of meters away from the river as reserved for nature and wildlife conservation to prohibit human activity.
These proposals supplemented with ideas of engaging in afforestation and establishing an independent authority (institution) charged with disaster early detection, prevention, mitigation, response and rehabilitation on river banks in the mountainous area will come a long way to provide a much needed sustainable solution to Kasese floods.
The writer is a resident of Kasese