Environment and Natural Resource Governance

environment a) The forest and wetland estate management Many government institutions, NGOs and multilateral organizations have been operating within such frameworks augmenting their efforts to improve the lives of the people. Uganda is faced with a deepening environmental calamity because of failure to ensure effective stewardship of our environment and our permanent forest estate in particular. Since 1990, Uganda has been losing nearly 90,000 hectares (225,000 acres) of forests every year. Of these, an estimated 85,000 hectares (212,500 acres) are lost from private and communal lands. Across th he country, critical wetland ecosystems have been decimated while important water catchment areas are being degraded. From Bududa to Kigezi and from Buliisa to Mt. Elgon, the evidence of government's inability to confront this deepening environmental crisis is abundant: land and mudslides; drying up water streams; escalating wood fuel crisis; environment related diseases and a burgeoning cost in the form of land degradation and soil erosion being passed on to our children and grandchildren. The fact of climate change which accounts for the dramatic changes in weather patterns that have confused both the citizens and the weatherman is an inescapable reality. Because of our limited technological capabilities, Uganda has limited ability and will to mitigate the negative effect of climate change. Forests are our front line of defense to climate change, to a potential energy crisis, and to the escalating water stress especially among our people across the rural areas of this country. Uganda's forests are under threat from people in the communities as well as government institutions, ironically, those mandated to protect and manage these resources in trust for the public, and for the common good of all citizens. Between 2000 and 2010, a disturbing trend is developing whereby forest reserves are systematically being de-gazetted or encroached on with total disregard of the law and consequences of such actions. This situation shows the danger posed by actions of the community, and government institutions which only serve to satisfy selfish interests at the expense of the public good. CAP will therefore engage in systematic research, documentation and targeted advocacy to promote sound environmental management practices and avert the looming effects of climate change- a reality confronting Uganda and the world today. b) Oil Governance In 2006, commercially-viable quantities of oil were found in the Albertine Graben in western Uganda. The Albertine Graben, the northern portion of the Albertine Rift, stretch¬es from the border of Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the north to Lake Edward on the Uganda-DRC border in the south—a distance of over 500 kilometers and an area of about 23,000 square kilometers. Oil development can bring great benefits, but it also comes with great risks to the environment as has been seen in oil developm ment zones from the Gulf of Mexico to the Niger Delta. The significance of these risks cannot be overstated, and it is critical that Uganda's legislative framework puts laws in place that will ensure that these risks are minimised. Most of the current foreign exchange earnings and livelihoods come from industries that rely directly on the environment –namely, agriculture and tourism. If oil development is undertaken in a way that compromises the natural endowment of Uganda, the short-term gains will be more than offset by long-term losses. The Albertine Rift is the most bio-diverse region of Uganda and, in fact, one of the most species-rich areas in the world. It is frequently identified as a globally important area for conservation, and is Uganda's largest draw for tourism, hosting more species than any other area on the continent, including the rare mountain gorilla. Some scientists have estimated that the region is home to 30 percent of Africa's mammal species, 51 percent of its bird species, 19 percent of its amphibian species and 14 percent of its plant and reptile species. Most of the oil exploration is taking place in protected areas. Fishing and agriculture throughout the Rift are also critical economically and socially and are completely reliant on healthy, non-polluted ecosystems. Contamination of the Albert Nile must also be protected against, as it would have far-reaching political ramifications due to the impacts on downstream nations – where interstate relationships are already strained. In order to ensure feasible management of the oil sector, CAP together with key stakeholders will venture into targeted advocacy and lobbying for the adoption of best practices contained in the recommendations, with emphasis on those that promote equitable management of oil resources and revenues, environmental protection and adequate compensation and restitution in areas of oil exploitation.