Lira Issues Ultimatum on Eucalyptus Trees in Wetlands

Lira District has issued a one-month ultimatum to those who have planted eucalyptus trees in wetlands to ensure they are cut down and removed.
Lira District has issued a one-month ultimatum to those who have planted eucalyptus trees in wetlands to ensure they are cut down and removed.

Pabious Otike, the Lira District Environment Officer, says this is in response to a directive by President Yoweri Museveni that all eucalyptus trees planted in wetlands across the country be removed.

The president issued the directive during Easter Sunday prayers at St Mathew Cathedral -Kyamate in Ntungamo district, saying it was a measure towards nature conservation. He also asked people operating fish ponds in swamps to abandon the practice saying that such activities are disastrous and threaten human survival in the near future.

According to Otike, a recent monitoring exercise of wetlands in Lira district found that communities have planted eucalyptus in almost all the wetlands within their reach.

In a letter to all the division town clerks, sub county chiefs and Local Council Three chairpersons in the district, Otike explained that scientific research has shown that one mature Eucalyptus wastes about 200 gallons of water daily.

He said this is one of the key factors contributing to drying up of wetlands across the country.

He accordingly directed that they should ensure that all those who have plated eucalyptus in their areas should remove them not later than May 15th.

He warned that after the expiry of this period, Lira District Local Government will forcefully remove the eucalyptus and will recover, as a civil debt in court, the expenses incurred by it or any other authorised person from those who planted the trees.

Otike explained that the directive is in line with the provisions under Section 36 of the National Environment Management Act, Cap 153 that prohibits introduction of exotic plants and Animals in Wetlands in Uganda.

The directive has drawn mixed reactions from residents in Lira.

Walter Abura accuses Lira district top officials for being behind the encroachment of wetlands by some unscrupulous people.

He cited part of Okole wetland for which he particularly accused Pabious Otike, the District Environment Officer, of receiving money from some people to allow them use it.

Otike has rubbished the claims as baseless adding it is just intended to divert the attention of the public from getting rid of wetland encroachers.

Bonniface Olwit from Lumumba says the ultimatum given is too short. He asks the district to give people ample time to harvest their eucalyptus trees as many had planted them for commercial purposes.

Francis Ogwal, the National Environmental Management Authority – NEMA's Natural Resources Manager for Biodiversity and Range Land, notes that Uganda's forest cover has drastically reduced from 4.9 million hectares in the early 1990's to 1.5 million hectares now.

Meanwhile during the same time wetland coverage was about 37,000 square kilometres but has since reduced to about 10,000 square kilometres.

Agricultural activities and human settlement have been listed as the biggest contributors to wetland degradation especially in Northern Uganda.