We must all protect our environment

Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark World Environment Day, with the national commemoration taking place in Kayunga District.The day, observed every June 5, was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972, marking the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

This year’s international theme, “Your Planet Needs You - Unite to Combat Climate Change”, is an apt choice by the UN Environment Programme, given the alarming rate at which climate change is affecting the environment.

It thus fitting that this year’s focus is mitigating climate change. In Uganda, like other parts of the world, the impact of climate change is evident. Over the last few years, this country has experienced erratic weather patterns with prolonged periods of drought in the eastern and northern parts of the country, while heavy flooding ravaged Teso sub region, especially in 2007. These and higher temperatures as well as declining water levels are symbolic of the extreme climate changes we are witnessing.

Though the trend is worrysome, few people are aware of, or care about climate change. We still continue to destroy forests and cut trees, largely for fuel. And yet, deforestation accounts for one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases with an estimated 30 million acres of rain forests reported to be shrinking yearly. The planet too is increasingly warming.

That is why Uganda needs to carry out massive awareness campaigns, through environmental bodies like Nema to educate the public on the dangers of climate change and impart a sense of personal responsibility in every citizen to protect the environment.

Nema is already enhancing public awareness through its information, education and communication section by educating people on the importance of conserving and managing the environment. We hope that communities are taking Nema’s message seriously and are putting it to good use to ensure they enjoy a clean and healthy environment. Since Ugandans depend on biomass for energy, we should re-emphasise tree planting to create a renewable energy base as well as maintain our water cycle.

Our government must make environmental protection a priority and, as part of the international community, use the December United Nation Climate Change Convention in Copenhagen to negotiate a rational environment treaty.

Editorial, Monitor, june 5th 2009