CONSERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT OF NATURE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT IN GULU MUNICIPALITY
by Acire Jose Jola, ENVIRONMENT OFFICER - GULU MUNICIPAL COUNCIL
Gulu Municipality, 61 square kilometres, is located at Latitude 2¡48' N and Longitude 32¡17' E in Gulu District in Northern Uganda, in the sub-Saharan region of tropical Africa. It is about 300 kilometres South of the region of desertification of the Sahara desert.
The major environmental problems are inadequate settlements, sanitation, Land degradation and a poor population that survives on marginal and fragile ecosystems, with limited awareness for sustainable use of the ecosystem. Armed conflicts in the district for the last ten (10) years has aggravated the problem as many people from rural areas flee to the Municipality. Population has shot up from about 40,000 in 1991 to nearly 100,000 in 1996. This poses a threat to the existence of nature and calls for effective measures for its conservation and enhancement.
Uganda practices popular democracy through a decentralization policy. The process seeks to enhance effective democratic participation of local community. A legal framework was established through the Local Government Statute (No.15 of 1993).
With respect to nature conservation/greenery, the decentralization policy calls for a community based participatory planning and management. It is therefore suitable for local initiatives and community participation.
2. NATURE CONSERVATION POLICY, PRINCIPLES AND STRATEGIES FOR GULU
The overall policy goal for nature conservation and greenery is sustainable development which maintains or enhances environmental quality.
The policy seeks to meet three basic objectives: -
Underlying the above policy objectives are certain key principles which guide policy development and implementation strategies:
- Maintenance of ecological processes and life support systems. Soils, water bodies/streams, forests, wetland/swamps, open and green spaces are existing life support systems under maintenance and conservation.
- Conservation of habitats and reintroduction of indigenous species to ensure that many species of plants and animals are protected from extinction.
- Sustainable utilization of resources, that is, to manage the use of species and ecosystems in ways which ensure that they continue to meet the needs of now and the future.
- Human right to live in a healthy environment.
- Sustainable natural resource use and sound management.
- Environmentally friendly, socially acceptable and affordable technologies be developed and disseminated for efficient use of natural resources.
- Enforcement of nature conservation laws of Uganda.
- Regular monitoring and accurate assessment of wildlife habitats.
- Provision of conditions and opportunities for communities and individuals to participate in conservation of nature/greenery by involving them in policy formulation, planning, decision making, implementation and management.
- Increase awareness and understanding of the value of nature conservation.
- Creation of protected areas.
- Involvement of local community in the planning and management of protected areas and in the sharing of benefits derived from these areas so as to resolve potential conflicts.
Strategies for implementation have been to:
- Identify valuable areas and sensitive habitats and explore means of protecting or conserving such areas.
- Coordinate with Institutions concerned with nature conservation particularly Forestry, Wildlife Authority, Wetland conservation and management programme, fisheries, Tourism and the National Environment Management Authority.
- Foster public support for intended nature conservation/greenery actions and encourage private and community investment in tree planting and wildlife conservation by placing greater emphasis on increasing public awareness on conservation/greenery values.
3. EXISTING HABITATS FOR NATURE CONSERVATION
We consider it important to conserve and enhance the variety of characteristic natural environments and historical sites where their significance can be appreciated.
The detailed species inventory and 'red' lists related to these habitats is still being developed.
- Forest plantations (Eucalyptus) of about 150 hectares exist outside the built-up area of the town.
- Wetland, mainly papyrus swamps cover nearly five (5) square kilometres outside the developed areas of the town.
- Open 'green' space under reforestation cover 30% of the developed areas of the town.
- Three streams are under maintenance of the Municipal Council. One reaches the centre of the town.
- Water ponds are available for conservation of aquatic life. Some belong to individuals and others to fisheries department.
- The Independence ground for Uganda's' independence of 1962 is under development into a green park.
- An area of about one square kilometer near the airfield is designated for protection where threatened and indigenous plant and animals species will be introduced.
4. GREENING ACTIVITIES AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION:
Our greening activity is associated with sensitive habitats, landscaping and restoration of derelict areas. The aspect of the landscaping is to protect and enhance natural recreational facilities, balancing this with securing animal and plant habitats and incorporating everything in a harmonious biotope by encouraging typical landscape features such as hedges, tree lined avenues, ditches and streams.
Environmental awareness with emphasis on the value of nature conservation has been a priority in the Municipal Programme.
Individuals and community groups, especially women and youth are involved in tree planting and being encouraged to maintain private amusement parks.
Lower Local Councils and their environment committees participate in conservation of habitats and maintenance of woodlots in their areas of jurisdiction.
Schools have formed wildlife clubs and a district association for the clubs. They are members of the Wildlife clubs of Uganda (WCU). WCU of Uganda is a member of the world conservation Union (IUCN).
The clubs' nature activities include:
The local community is involved in the establishment of a protected area and will be involved in the management and sharing of benefits from it.
- Maintenance of tree nursery including from indigenous trees.
- Establishment of Botanical gardens for various trees.
- Establishment of woodlots for practical use.
- Establishment of aquarium and protection of some animals.
- Local nature trips
- Nature trails in undisturbed areas.
- Wildlife abuse monitoring and reporting.
5. EFFECTS OBTAINED FROM NATURE CONSERVATION
It has generated awareness that Urban Wildlife has many values including that of landscaping enhancing amenity areas and reducing levels of airborne pollutants and noise.
With introduction of protected areas, perception of wildlife value in our town seem to be changing from an appreciation of human-made habitats like parks and recreation grounds to more natural habitats.
Public awareness of the value of nature conservation is a prerequisite. Local committee structure and involvement of local community in nature conservation and management is essential.
School children are more active in nature conservation when properly motivated.
Urban Wildlife habitats are continually affected by new developments and are in a constantly changing environment. There is need for creation of protected areas and frequent evaluations and surveys. Data from surveys have therefore to be collated, analyzed, stored, reviewed and communicated as efficiently as possible. This demands for good methods.
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