FAROUK KIRUNDA. The collapse of the Katonga Bridge is a reminder of the NRA’s revolutionary methods

Some of us are not surprised that the famous Katonga Bridge (around which NRA rebels led by Yoweri Museveni in 1986 defeated UNLA forces to march and capture Kampala) when it happened effectively cut off the western part of East Africa. The East. The inconvenience and cost of this failure to connect the two ends will be told and felt for many years to come.

This disaster occurred when heavy rains lashed many parts of the country, raising water levels through the roof. In many places, not only Central (Masaka District), where Katonga is located, the rains have been heavy and continuous; they caused extensive damage, inundating residential areas, farmland, public buildings and infrastructure, with devastating consequences. Before Katonga, we had seen roads in the Kigezi area disintegrating due to steep slopes giving way out of control. Unfortunately, lives were also lost, and in quantifying the economic toll of such incidents, we cannot put any value on the loss of life. May the victims rest in eternal peace as the living wake up to the reality of the state of our planet.

I had a field visit in Luzinga, Lucca. Residents were displaced from their homes due to flooding. Now there are fears of starvation after their gardens have been washed away, in addition to diseases caused by stagnant water and wet conditions.

In 2020, Uganda experienced a series of torrential rains that caused the waters of Lake Victoria to surge, moving small islands into the Jinja Electric Dams. Had it not been for the UPDF engineering brigade, debris would have blocked the dam and destroyed power-generating infrastructure, with devastating effects on the economy.

Dozens of people died last year when floods swept through Mbale town leaving families in Mbale, Namisindwa, Buykwe, Kalangala, Butambala, Lwengo, Kisoro and Kyegegwa districts and the nation in mourning. President Yoweri Museveni was present to offer his condolences through the Minister of the Presidency, Hon. Babirye Milly Babalanda.

However, those people did not have to die because these disasters, while usually acts of nature, are increasingly the result of man’s misuse and abuse of the natural environment. It’s a cycle, and each time I predict it will get worse unless we take decisive action.

People have ignored the President’s emphatic call to preserve the natural environment and stop the degradation of wetlands. The President has repeatedly issued directives and guidelines requiring the public to leave wetlands. Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) have standing orders to clear encroachers, but some of the encroachers are adamant, playing all kinds of tricks, including running back to wetlands after the enforcers have left the place. It’s business as usual for them, while it’s not.

Even during election campaigns, when candidates are expected to endear themselves to the masses, the president does not shy away from directing all the land that accumulates in wetlands to restore those who build on lakeshores, develop riverbanks and destroy forested areas to give up. practices. Many local leaders have not helped because they are afraid of angering voters by pushing them out of these expensive zones.

In fact, it is at such times that we can tell who the real leaders are. those who stand by the truth, even when it is bitter. Museveni learned this approach from the legendary former Tanzanian president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who asked the people to grow enough food. When they refused, he loaded them onto trucks and sent them by force to Shambas. At the harvest, that’s when they remembered to appreciate him. Maybe Ugandans want President Museveni to go that route.

The government has taken measures to provide alternative livelihoods to the encroachments, but it seems to them that it is not enough. They will play with nature until it responds in its own way.
People did not listen to the advice of the President of RA regarding the protection of the environment. environmental degradation is a growing threat; security threat and crime against humanity. We cannot afford to lose more lives in avoidable circumstances and suffer economic losses as we are experiencing with the collapse of Katonga. That entire corridor is now bereft of the travelers who have supported its economy since time immemorial. However, Katonga is only one point. There are other places scattered across the country where minor roads and bridges have broken down and communities have been gridlocked.

Nature is angry with us. If we are not careful, no one is safe. Even those who believe they are benefiting from wetland encroachment are losing their entire investment, if not their lives. It is not worth going against the dictates of sustainable use and preservation of the environment.

Again, this is a bipartisan issue that affects everyone regardless of political persuasion. We all rely on nature and it is our collective responsibility to do something about it while we can. The price for anyone who harms our natural environment must be very high, so that anyone who engages in it is considered an enemy of the general public, in the league of armed adversaries. In fact, causing environmental damage that destroys lives and disrupts utility infrastructure and existence is a major crime. Even laws need to be revised in light of the consequences of being relatively lenient on offenders. We must resist them like the NRA resisted the Lutwa forces in Katonga. It is a reminder to use revolutionary methods to overcome modern enemies and threats.

I call on all actors to join President Museveni in protecting the delicate natural environments that also regulate our climate, making it possible to live comfortably. If we don’t, we are all doomed. All illegal developments in wetlands must be stopped and those already there cleaned up. The school curriculum should have studies on environmental protection, the clergy should preach louder, civil society should sound its drums more. Whoever does not listen should blame himself.

The author is the deputy press secretary of the president

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