Mr. Dickson Langoya (56) an environmentalist and forestry products entrepreneur, advocates for more resources to environmental sector to boost GDP.
“Re-forestation and restoration of wetlands must be undertaken as a matter of urgency, and the destruction of wetlands and forest cover will be penalized through the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. Local governments must enact and enforce ordinances on tree planting, efficient waste management and wetland conservation. The ban of those harmful materials such as environmentally destructive polythene bags among others, will also be unequivocally empowered”
“The recognition of the importance of environment and natural resource management with enough substantive budget allocation in the Constitution would place environment in the center of national development agenda. In Bulambuli district in the slopes of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda, the yearly budget allocations to Natural Resources Department is UGX 4 million (about US$ 1100). Are we surprised that landslides occur every year in Mount Elgon?”
GULU-UGANDA: Although Uganda is endowed with good weather and climate, its environment and natural resources are under threat because of lack of appreciation of critical linkage between environment and development.
Drivers to this threat include poverty, rapid population growth, expansion of settlement, unplanned urban growth, industrialization, pollution and low level of awareness.
According to Uganda’s Minister of Finance, Mr. Matia Kasaija, the size of our economy has reached UGX 109 trillion (US$ 29.5 billion) and has been growing at 6% per annum for the last two consecutive years. The service sector is contributing 48.7%; industries contributing 21% but the share of agriculture have reduced from 55% in 1986, when President took over power, to a paltry 22% in the 2018/9 financial year.
In the current national budget the largest amount of money allocated to each sector goes to works and transport, education and security. All these are non-productive sectors unlike productive sectors like agriculture, which was allocated 2.6%; and natural resources which was allocated 2.75%.
Although the minister recognizes that there is urgent need for re-forestation and restoration of wetlands and are very important drivers of the economy, the ministry responsible for this sector of the economy is resource starved.
“Re-forestation and restoration of wetlands must be undertaken as a matter of urgency, and the destruction of wetlands and forest cover will be penalized through the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. Local governments must enact and enforce ordinances on tree planting, efficient waste management and wetland conservation. The ban of those harmful materials such as environmentally destructive polythene bags among others will also be unequivocally empowered”, Minister Kasaija tells parliament on June 13, 2019. The theme of this year’s budget is: ‘Industrialization for job Creation and Shard Prosperity’
Even the National Budget Framework Paper for the 2019/2020 financial year recognizes the important role played by the Environment ministry embedded in the National Development Plan.
“The Water and Environment sector offers strategic and central contributions to the country’s drive towards transformation from a peasant to an industrial and middle income country by 2040. The availability of adequate water resources is central to hydro-power development, agricultural production and productivity, industrial development, tourism development and mitigation of climate and climate change effects”, says the Budget Framework Paper.
However, one environmentalist and a forestry products entrepreneur in Gulu, Mr. Dickson Langoya (56), blames Minister of Finance, Mr. Matia Kasaija, for being responsible for the current effects of climate change in Uganda. He says the minister does not allocate enough funds to mitigate the effects of climate change thereby causing environmental degradation in all levels of society.
“The recognition of the importance of environment and natural resource management with enough substantive budget allocation in the Constitution would place environment in the center of national development agenda. InBulambuli district in the slopes of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda, the yearly budget allocation to Natural Resources Department is UGX 4 million (about US$ 1100). Are we surprised that landslides occur every year in Mount Elgon?” Mr. Langoya asserts during an interview on Thursday, July 25, 2019.
He explains that according to the Local Government Act, functions and services for which district councils are responsible, recognizes education, medical, health and water services as the most important services.
He complains that although section 5 of the Act has two important departments; Production and Natural Resources, they are categorized as “other minor services” yet their operations or lack of it have direct impact on, sustainable land management, sustainable forest management and climate change mitigation.
“It is therefore not surprising to see that budget allocation to Natural Resources department at the district level is among the lowest”, he says.
He gave the example of Costa Rica, also a developing country like Uganda, which has put environment in the center of its economy through budget support, accountability and equitable distribution of benefits up to the household.
“Costa Rica has experienced the challenge of high rate of deforestation from the 1970’s to mid-1990’s which has since been reversed and even the area of forest cover increased beyond 1970 level from 10% in the 1980’s to 51% in 2016. The country has been placing renewable natural capital in the center of development as a strategic policy issue. There is positive correlation between environmental conservation and economic productivity”, says Mr. Langoya.
He observes that although agriculture employs 72% of total workforce and earns 25% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is allocated only 2.6% of the national budget. Although the minimum allocation projected under the Maputo Declaration is 10%, most countries in Africa have not reached that level of allocation.
On flash floods, environmental degradation and the level of pollution city water, which hits Kampala Capital City each time it rains, Mr. Langoya advises the City Authority that these calamities could have been avoided if the authority spent more funds in environmental/biodiversity conservation instead of trying to treat effects.
“The cost of maintaining roads destroyed by flash floods, wetlands polluted by waste products such as plastic products, are too high yet these could be prevented if KCCA embarked on prevention instead of cure”, says Mr. Langoya.