Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some of the stories written as part of the environmental reporting workshop


Environmental and health hazards currently bedeviling Mbarara Municipality and six other urban authorities in the country could gradually be surmounted when a World Bank funded project that will provide a garbage compositor and collect trucks take off.

With Mbarara Municipality population generating over 150 tons of solid waste per day part of which is collected by trucks for dumping at a site in Kankombe, Kakoba division there by degrading the land and polluting the air in the vicinity, the construction of the compositor which turns the solid waste into manure is expected to greatly check the hazardous impact on the neighboring communities. The garbage that has been a menace will also turn into a blessing as its product once its turned into manure will help generate some income when it is sold to the farming community.

While the long time vision for Mbarara Municipality leadership is to archive a city status, it has been grappling with solid waste disposal, which would be aggravated by the increased population occasioned by the territorial expansion and more attractive services.

But the chief township officer Mbarara Municipality David Naluwayiro Kigenyi discloses that with assistance from the environment watchdog the National Environment Management [NEMA], a project worth 400 million Uganda shillings is being implemented to help seven Municipalities and two town councils to partly overcome the garbage disposal problem.
Besides, Mbarara, other prospective beneficiaries are Lira, Masaka, Jinja, Soroti, Fort Portal and Mbale Municipalities plus the town councils of Mukono and Kasese.

The project site will also benefit from a six-kilometer extension of piped water with the help of National Water and Sewerage Corporation from which the neighboring community will benefit. Kigenyi says the NEMA coordinated project has contributed a refuse collecting truck and 20 collection skips while in the subsequent phase, the Ministry of Local Government has promised to provide another truck.

The Mbarara Municipal Environment Officer, Herbert Tumwebaze says the sites at which solid waste is collected and dumped suffers the environment and health hazards through the degrading of land and air pollution. He says the refuse from the unsorted garbage litters and contaminates the neighboring water sources.

Councilors who represent the area where the dumping site is located cry foul of the nasty smell and pollution of the atmosphere but are optimistic of the new project will mitigate the adverse effects.

The township officer Mr. Kigenyi reveals that about 17million shillings is spent per month on collection of the solid waste by the trucks in the municipality. Part of it is collected directly by the council trucks and private contractors manage another part.

He attributes the ever-rising solid waste problem to an increasing population, a big percentage of which is poor, which does not appreciate the desire for beauty and standards. All the majority of the town dwellers care about is their survival and it is difficult to change their negative attitude. He wonders why some town dwellers for instance in their wisdom choose to throw their solid waste on the surface even when the skips are half empty.

On the government policies, Kigenyi feels the implementation of our environment law is weak compared to neighboring Rwanda where authorities are strict with dumping of polythene and plastic materials.

Mbarara’s Resident District Commissioner, Clement Kandole also agrees with Kigenyi on the ambiguity of Ugandan laws on environment. He wonders for instance how an ordinary person is expected to comprehend the difference in gauges of the polythene materials in terms of microns yet it could be more realistic to say impose a ban on all polythene materials.

With proper implementation of the solid waste management project, active involvement of the stakeholders including the communities neighboring the dumping site and continued awareness on sustainability of the project, the environment related hazards in Mbarara and other towns could be history.


The people of Kiswahili Parish in Mbarara District have threatened to burn down International Window School due to its failure to construct a soak pit in which wastewater can be collected.

The area councilor Yusuf Kakembo said that despite several warnings given to the school, it has continued to dispose waste-water that runs over people’s gardens and compounds up to the water catchment area in the lower land.

The Municipal Environment Officer, Herbert Tumwebaze says the waste- water produces a foul smell and is posing an environment hazard to the water source in the area.

Mr. Tumwebaze added that unless the trend is reversed, the wastewater would create a lot of erosion gullies and loss of soil fertility leading to low productivity.

The Municipal Medical Officer, Dr William Tinkasimire said that waste water can cause harmful diseases like diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid to people if not properly handled.

The Town Clerk David Kigenyi Naluwairo said the school will be relocated if the proprietor fails to develop a proper drainage system. The school Headmaster, Maali Kakuru refused to talk to the press when contacted for a comment.



The Mbarara Municipality Health Officer, Dr. John Tinkasimire has said that harvesting of many trees in urban centres and its surroundings has contributed to the increased drought hence causing hunger.

Tinkasimire said that there was rampant tree harvesting in Mbarara Municipality due to the need of space for building residential houses and brick making.

Dr. Tinkasiimire told journalists in his office today at Mbarara Municipal Council building that most of the trees have been cut into timber and charcoal.

He said that this has greatly affected rainfall formation that is needed to support the growth of horticultural crops which are supplementary foods for town dwellers and that if this trend of rapid tree cutting is not reversed, people are likely to lose life.

Tinkasiimire told reporters that before these trees were cut down, Mbarara Municipality used to have enough rainfall and people were planting simple food crops like cabbage, tomatoes and carrots which would supplement other food stuffs from outside Mbarara town. He advised all residents of mbarara town to embark on tree planting in order to save environment and life.

When contacted, the woman LC4 councilor for Myarutobora ward, Jessica Byaruhanga told reporters that Myarutobora ward in Mbarara municipality was leading producer of vegetable food stuffs before trees were cut down but now he area is a bare ground with no any agricultural activity taking place. She said that if this rapid cutting of trees is not controlled, Mbarara is likely to face danger in the near future in terms of food shortage/ hunger.



The District Natural Resource Officer, South Western Region, Jeconius Musingwire has decried that the encroachment on river Rwizi which has caused the lowering of water levels in the region. River Rwizi is the only source of water supply to the districts of Mbarara, Lyantonde, Isingiro and Kiruhura.

He also added that even National Water and Sewerage Corporation uses the same river at Ruharo and Kabale.

Jeconious Musingwire said this while meeting journalists in his office at Kamukuzi where he he also emphasized that the environment is being affected by the encroachment on river Rwizi and the surrounding wetlands.

By press time when contacted, the Manager National Water and Sewerage Corporation Mbarara area, James Opoka said that the corporation has embarked on storing water in their corporation tanks so that the water levels can be controlled to maximum use for environmentalists.

He also informed reporters that the corporation is doing every thing possible to control the situation of water levels by afforestation at the most of collecting centres in Ruharo and Kabale road.

In another development when the people at River Rwizi were contacted, the L.C.1 Chairman Kashanyazi cell, Semunjju Mohammed said that the lowering of water levels at River Rwizi have affected the economic activities of the area because most of the people in his cell benefit from brick laying which consumes a lot of water and the only source is River Rwizi.



Rwentondo wetland degradation has put the health of 600 families in Kenkombe cell Kakiika Sub County at risk due to the use of contaminated water from their well and residents say they have complained to various authorities to no avail.

“For some time now, we are experiencing itches on our bodies due to using bad water that makes our bodies pale when we wash with it,” Sarah Nierere, a mother of three from the village says.

She said residents draw water from a well that is fed by water which goes through Rwentondo wetland. This water that feeds into the wetland is from the run offs from Mbarara Municipality and is contaminated with minerals washed from the town.

Nierere says the water is very hard and one has to use a lot of soap when washing clothes and bathing. “Kuturikuganaaba omubirir twine okwejunisa esabuuni nyingi ahakuba nigaba gagangaire kandi nigashisha nemibiri yabaana bashatanyagurika, reero emyenda yo nekihebya” she says literary meaning [ when using this water for bathing, one has to use a lot of soap and when it comes to bathing children, they run the risk of their bodies corroded by the bad water]

“This water is not only affecting human beings but also their livestock. Our animals have been affected because some have died while others look very unhealthy” Yusufu Mugabo who owns the well where his fellow residents draw water from says. Mugabo who doubles as the LC 1 chairman says the municipality authorities promised that they would use the land fill system of garbage disposal but have since renegade on their promise.

He says he has complained to municipality authorities but they have failed to come to their rescue since they are the people causing the problem. “We have complained to municipal authorities but they have failed to help us and the problem has been compounded by waste dumping from the municipality which was introduced of recent and it is upstream.”

Mbarara municipality land near the village, which it is using as a garbage-dumping site. However, the Medical Officer of Health Dr. John Tinkamanyire says the problem of waste management is temporal and will soon be solved.

“We have received funding from the Bank through National Environment Management Authority [NEMA] to construct a compost that will be turning the waste materials that rot into the manure and garbage will be no more”. On drinking contaminated water, he says soon the residents around the project will receive clean piped water.

The town Clerk David Naluwayiro admits that the residents are consuming dirty water due to the degradation of the wetland but that this is about to be history because the council has received funding from the World Bank. He says the method of waste disposal is the land fill system but compost system.

“We are going to provide water to the residents of villages around the waste disposal plant to a radius of 5 km and every body will benefit from the project and are implementing it with National Water and Sewerage Corporation.

Under the same project, the Rwentondo wetland will be allowed to regenerate because a demonstration farm will also be put to teach the farmers methods of better farming and providing alternative land to using a wetland.

Naluwayiro says the 400 million will benefit the residents by providing manure that will be generated from the compost so that instead of following fertility in wetlands, they would use it as fertilizers in their gardens uphill.

“We are going to employ residents of the area in garbage sorting to separate the buvera and other hard materials from other wastes that rot and churn into manure which we shall give to farmers at a small fee that they will use in their gardens, he says.

A visit to Kenkombe dumping site has revealed work in progress but the dumping is still going on. When asked when the project is to be commissioned, Mr. Naluwayiro is non committal. “The contractors had some problems but otherwise work would have been finished by now but as soon as we finish the residents will be happy.”

Dr. Tinkamanyire however says they are still faced with disposal of the buvera to be sorted but hopes a solution will be found like selling them to recycling plants in Kampala.

While the project is still going on, residents of Kenkombe village will have to put up with the contaminated water and the foul smell from the waste disposal.



The Town Clerk Mbarara, Mr. Naluwayiro Kigenyi has decried the poor disposal of polyethylene papers which has increased the spread of malaria disease because of the mosquitoes they harbor.

He told the Monitor daily paper on Friday during the field study taken up when the journalists had a 3 day training workshop at Pelikan hotel, on environmental reporting.

He said that those polyethylene papers and used condoms spoil the environment in that they cover the soil and the rain water cannot pass through causing soil infertility hence famine in most places.

Dr. Tinkasiimire William said even those condoms young children usually pick them and blow air in them calling them balloons and then start playing with them which always cause some health diseases to those children.



One of the leading environmentalists in the country has warned that continuous burial of people in concrete graves is going to create an environmental disaster in future.

Cyril Mugenyi who is the Bushenyi district natural resources coordinator said that from the ecological point of view, our bodies were made out of elements extracted from the soil by plants.

“Those chemical elements were borrowed from the soil therefore there is need to burry the dead in soils to replace the chemical elements that were removed when man was created,” he said.

Mugyenyi said that our ancestors who discovered the act of burying the dead in the soil must have been great environmental experts.

“Our ancestors discovered the innovation of digging pits where the dead were buried and covered with soil saying they were even fulfilling the biblical saying that man was from soil and therefore should be returned to the soil” he said.

He revealed that in the rural setting people usually settle on the most productive land and go on to burry their departed relatives on the same land.

“These graves are slowly but steadily eating up this productive land, in a district like Bushenyi which has approximately 2,218,000,000 square metres of cultivable land and a population of about 0.8 million people. A concrete grave on average covers three square meters of land. Mathematically, this cultivable land can accommodate only 739,333,333 concrete graves and there will be nothing but a sea of concrete”, he said.

He added that although the above figure appears as though it will take a long time to have the land occupied, this will last for a few generations and assuming that nothing else like buildings and roads is occupying this land.

“By the time 30% of this land is concrete, there will be little remaining as farmland. That is land that is not ours, which we are simply giving away permanently to the dead when those alive have nowhere to farm or construct useful structures” Mugyenyi said.

Cyril said such environmental hazards formulate the essence of multiple failures of natural setups for the revolving of the earth.



Hundreds of thousands of rural people and their livestock in Western Uganda depend on polluted water according to environmentalists there.

Environmentalists in the region say most of the waters in the rivers, lakes and wells there have been polluted and are now brown in color. They blame this mostly on poor methods of farming which causes soils from this hilly region to slop down the hills and pollute waters in the valleys every time it rains.

River Rwizi is one of the main rivers in the South Western Region which is a source of water for thousands of local people and their livestock. Snaking through the famous hills of South Western Uganda, Rwizi was always a very beautiful river that brought pride to the people in the area due too its sky blue waters and the purposes they served.

Today, River Rwizi is back in news not for its great beauty and history but for being under a brink of death. The deadly disease whose symptoms include browning and ever decreasing waters was spread to it by the people who depend on it according to the agency that oversees environment in Uganda- NEMA.

The focal person for the National Environment Management Authority – NEMA in the Western Region, Jeconius Musingwire talking to our reporter said that the water of River Rwizi “should never be shaded blue on any map because its color is brown like the soil”.

He disclosed that Rwizi’s waters are brown because of sedimentation. “There is a lot of soil wash off from the river’s poorly managed catchment areas,” laments Musingwire.

He says that the people have started sand digging on the river that has also contributed to its drying up further.

River Rwizi, which originates from Buhweju, a mountainous country of Bushenyi District meanders through the bare hills of southwestern Uganda in Bushenyi, Ntungamo and Mbarara Districts. It continues to flow via several cattle grazing places in this region before joining Lake Mburo.

Musingwire says valleys and hills which River Rwizi meanders through are usually set on fire in the dry seasons. According to Musingwire, the same hills and valleys are again faced with poor methods of cultivation in rainy seasons. This Musingwire says “leaves soils from the poorly managed hills and valleys dumped into the river every time it rains”. This he says is not only happening to River Rwizi but to also to several other water bodies in the region.

Musingwire tips that poor methods of farming could continue threatening water sources in this region unless local people there promote soils conservation.



Shy D. M. Miriam [who prefers to be called that name] of Kijungu in Mbarara District is busy preparing lunch for herself and her grand children when I meet her for a brief interview.

She says she has lived next to a sewerage lagoon for the last 20 years and says she is very healthy save for the stench that occurs occasionally during the wet season.

She does not know that the lagoon emits gases and substances that are dangerous to her health although she knows that the pond contains human excreta.

A Threat to Health
The District NEMA focal person Jeconius Musingwire says people living around the pond risk contracting cancer related diseases which are brought about by inhaling toxic gases and substances from the pond.

The residents run the risk of contracting cancer of the brain, kidneys stomach and other sanitary related diseases because of directly inhaling the breeze from the ponds containing sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide if there is continual intake of the gases.

Mbarara Municipality has about five lagoons and at least two of them have been encroached on and human habitation is less than the recommended 100 metres thus putting that settlement at risk.

The National Water and Sewerage Corporation’s [NWSC] Engineer, Moses Omara today was speaking out that the corporation has no mandate to stop people from encroaching on the lagoons because their main concern is to make sure the water released from the pond is safer before it is released to be open.

NWSC owns the lagoons; we are under no obligation to chase away the people, as this would interfere with the work of NEMA. Our responsibility only stops at the fence of the lagoons, “he says, “we also make sure we cut the bushes around ponds and remove the dirt that comes with sewerage”, he adds. Omara contends that this problem is country wide. This has not happened here alone.

Again speaking to the Mbarara Town Clerk Mr. Naluwayiro David, he said people/residents who stay around the lagoons is due to over population even when residents are told they cannot listen.

He further reported how he wants the area to be clean so that they live under good sanitation so that it is preserved.

With this problem of the lagoons, it is not happening here in Mbarara, but in other urban areas across the country.


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