Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Uganda sliding freely to climatic tragedy

Uganda sliding freely to climatic tragedy
In rising seal levels and expanding deserts in ravaged rain forest like Mabira and mushrooming slums Uganda, just like the rest of the world, is already experiencing human and environmental degradation with catastrophic ramifications.

It’s only two weeks ago that most low lying areas in and around Kampala city were flooded to un-precendended levels that left at least three people dead. And the situation can only get worse.

The Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the impacts of human-induced climate change are likely to be felt in poor countries and poor communities like Uganda first. Uganda has already been listed among the 100 most vulnerable countries whose over a billion people face a bleak future.

And the IPCC is emphatic in its assessment; stressing that human-induced climate change is likely to have the heaviest impact on small low-lying Island and coastal states, African nations, and Asian mega-deltas.

Ironically, the 100 most vulnerable countries have contributed the least to total global carbon emissions with the United States of America, European Union, China and India being the major world polluters.

With well over a billion people in 100 countries faced with a volatile future, the IPCC has warned that this worrying situation, coupled with entrenched poverty, degraded or threatened environments will lead to more frequent natural disasters that could tip the poor nations like Uganda over the edge into chronic famine or forced migration.

The greatest impact of climate change is already being felt on one of the world’s poorest continents - Africa, with unpredictable and unusually harsh weather conditions being felt in most countries including Uganda this year alone.

In Uganda , we don’t need to look else where to understand the causes of the erratic climate changes. Our forests are under severe attack by some of the most imprudent policies and decisions of our national leaders to destroy the forest cover in support of industrialisation.

In Kampala alone, corrupt and short sighted officials have released wetlands and green open spaces for unplanned construction sites.
Human social economic development activities including forces related to population growth, technology lead to increase in the concentration of green house gases (GHG’s) in the atmosphere that greatly affect the global climate.

The Heads of Government of the Commonwealth, who have been in Kampala for Chogm 2007, noted and expressed grave concern about the threat that climate change presents to human security and economic well- being. But is it enough for our leaders to just sit and mourn about a sickening situation without doing much to avert it?

This is not the first time that the Commonwealth leaders and their colleagues in the rest of the world have signed conventions and declarations that remain good on paper- as millions of people continue to suffer under severe climate conditions.

Take a situation of Kampala where slums and low lying areas are submerged whenever it rains leaving thousands of people in hopeless situations.
There is the 1997 Kyoto protocol that expires in four years, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC); the 1989 Langkawi Declaration on the Environment when the Commonwealth Heads of Government first defined ‘our’ collective concern over serious deterioration of the environment as a threat to the well-being of current and future generation.

While most of these international legal instruments were well intentioned to keep the global environment stable –no serious effort has been made by the governments to enforce them. It’s imperative that threats to the environment be viewed and addressed in a balanced perspective, mindful of the needs to eradicate poverty, provide sustainable development, and enhanced quality of life for all.

The cruel wealth conditions experienced in several parts of the country this year should serve as a wake-up call for our national and local leaders to jealously protect our environment. The inter-generational environmental law principle calls for equity in the exploitation of environmental resources between generations.

The principle demands that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained for the benefit of the present and future generations.

The writer is a journalist and advocate
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