Fort Portal municipality has launched the Water Resources Management Project aimed at promoting integrated water resources management within the entire river Mpanga basin, which is the main source of water in Kabarole.
The project will be implemented in the Mpanga Catchment Area by Natural Resources Defense Initiatives (NRDI) in partnership with Fort Portal Municipal Council and Albert water management zone and it will be funded by PROTOS and the Government of Belgium.
Edgar Muganzi the Team Leader for Natural Resources Defense Initiative said on Wednesday that the project target will be to stabilize the river banks and protection of the environment by planting and promoting the indigenous tree species such Prunus Afircana, Bridelia and other local fruits trees.
"The planting will also be done in schools, churches, roads sides and the catchment residents are encouraged to pick free seedlings from the project nursery to plant as they wish" said Muganzi.
" We are involving residents in the neighboring communities on a voluntary basis and we shall distribute tree seedlings needed in the protection of the water catchment area and train them and use them to keep monitoring the human activities, which threaten its existence," said Muganzi.
He said that the river was facing several challenges like floods, water quality due to the pollution from the industries and urged the people to embrace the project so as to preserve the river from drying up.
"NRDI will train the people neighboring the river in all aspects of water resources management and also plant trees along the river banks," added Muganzi.
He said that they have already started working with landlords near the river on the modalities of restoring the water catchment area.
"We are training them on which species of trees to plant along the river bed so that they can conserve it because it is a source of water both for their animals and domestic use," he added.
Muganzi said the project has a timeframe of 5 years (2017 to 2021) in which to achieve the objectives of integrated water and other resources management.
"It will also provide a framework for different stakeholders to identify areas where their interventions are needed and their linkages with other stakeholders, "he added.
He said from Fort Portal town, the Mpanga River flows through a rural area with various tea plantations where large ground water abstractions are operational into Kibale Forest national park.
"This ecosystem is one of the most important indigenous forests still present in Uganda today and has a high environmental value Mpanga River plays a key role in its existence and conservation,"Muganzi added.
Rev. Kintu Muhanga the mayor Fort Portal Municipality warned the people neighboring the river to stop destroying the natural vegetation along the river bed.
The recent past has seen an increase in the number of permanent houses, car washing bays and activities such as sand mining, brick laying and crop production on its river beds.
Muhanga said that Fort Portal has offered a two acre piece of land to NRDI to raise the seedlings for the project.
"We are going to Support NRDI because River Mpanga is the main source of water for the people in the Kabarole if it is left to dry many people will face the consequences,"Muhanga said.
Muhanga said the Mpanga Catchment Management Plan will identify issues that need urgent consideration, proposes mitigation strategies and identifies appropriate stakeholders and their roles.
Job Asiimwe an environmentalist said the river flows through different wetlands for which it also plays an important role in maintaining the environmental value.
"As the river flows through Kamwenge District towards Lake George, the area is heavily deforested and especially river banks are threatened by the cultivation of crops," said Asiimwe.
He said in Kamwenge town a new drinking water system has been recently installed using Mpanga River water.
"The Mpanga River then flows into Lake George over Mpanga falls and this site is a natural habitat for different species of fauna and flora and borders Queen Elizabeth National Park the Dura wetland system is also classified as Ramsar site," he added.
He said residents of all fishing villages on Lake George concede that the level of the lake has been going down over the years.
"No one is sure of the causes but it could partly be due to wider global issues such as climate change and partly due to environmental deterioration at the national or regional level,"Asiimwe said.
He said whatever the cause; declining water levels reduce overall breeding or nursery sites for some fish species and may affect lake productivity according to the water resource assessment for river Mpanga, 2009