Wetlands are important for the role they play in society providing a range of ecological and socio-economic functions. Ecological and regulating services include erosion prevention, moderation of extremes, sediment traps, climate modification, soil formation, maintenance of water tables in surrounding lands and as centres of biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Socio-economic or provisioning services include food, medicines, water supply, fisheries, dry-season grazing for livestock, nutrient and toxin retention, tourism and so on. They are also important for aesthetic, recreational and spiritual reasons.
In 1995, Uganda made history as the second country worldwide, after Canada, to pass a wetlands policy. The National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetlands is based on five objectives which revolve around the principles of sustainability, improving wetlands productivity and diversity and good governance. Additional legislation enacted that strengthened this policy included the Environment Act of 1995, Land Act 1997, Local Government Act 1997, Environment Impact Assessment Regulations 1998, Wetland Regulations 2000 and the Constitution 2010. These, and many other laws, provide the legal framework that is designed to ensure the protection and wise use of wetlands.
The area under wetlands in the different river basins is on the decline. The extent of decline varies from over 53.8 percent in the Lake Victoria basin to 14.7 percent in the Lake Albert basin. Many of the reasons for this decline stem from weak enforcement of existing laws, continued disregard for the existing laws and policy, difficulty in enforcing laws and policy and lack of coordination amongst key government institutions.
The growing population is a major factor driving encroachment into wetlands for settlement, agriculture and for other resources. The recent census indicates that the population is growing at a rate of 3.2 percent each year and has almost tripled from 12.6 million in 1980 to 34.8 million in 2014. The country is rapidly urbanizing with the rate of urbanization at 6.6 percent in 2014. The high population creates high demand for land and enormous pressure on the natural resources for food, medicines, fuelwood, clay mining for bricks and other raw materials.
This plan discusses the specific problems in each major wetland district and provides recommendations for addressing wetland degradation.