IGAD calls for laws to protect regional water bodies

By Vision Reporter

The Inter-governmental Authority on Development asks member states to formulate laws to protect water bodies in the region.

By Andrew Ssenyonga

The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has asked regional heads of government to formulate laws to protect water bodies in the region.

The call was made by the IGAD natural resources program manager Daher Elmi on Friday at the end of a three-day regional training course on International water law, negotiation and conflict resolution at Makerere University, Kampala.

The training was organised by the IGAD and Inland Water Resource Management Programme (INWRMP) with Makerere University Environmental Law Center (MUELC).

At the meeting, Elmi talked of the need to take “serious note of the dying water bodies in all our states, especially lakes, rivers and streams which are all being degraded, encroached and polluted”.

He also called on regional governments to ensure that the existing water bodies do not fall prey to land grabbers.

The IGAD official made the request while adjudicating on depleting water bodies in the region.

He explained: “A mere glance on the stories and documentaries on saving Lake Victoria made me cry for our region. The governments have to come together and formulate laws that would preserve the water bodies for our grandchildren.”

Dr. Emmanuel Kazimbasi, an associate professor says that protection of natural water bodies and ponds is akin to honouring the most basic of fundamental rights – the right to life – which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Kazimbasi once said that IGAD member states – which include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda – have comprehensive water laws, but that some of these laws need to be updated.

He said that in Somalia provisions relevant to water resources are scattered in numerous legal instruments dating back to the colonial period.

In order to put a check on the illegal activities on the water bodies, he said governments should form committees to regulate the activities on the water bodies.

"Permits to operate on water bodies should be issued out in order to check illegal activities,” he advised.

Kazimbasi further said the committee would also conduct a survey as how many unauthorized businesses are going on.

“The committee would also ensure measures for renovation and restoration of the water bodies.”

The three-day training course is focused on international water law attracted 14 main participants from ministries in charge of water affairs and (water) law experts.

The training course was intended to contribute to the enhancement of the institutional capacities needed at the national and regional levels for water laws and policy implementation.

IGAD calls for laws to protect regional water bodies