President Yoweri Museveni has Tuesday asked individuals living in areas affected by floods and landslides to accept and be resettled in safer areas to avoid further deaths and loss of property.
This is contained in his condolence message to families of Ugandans who have lost relatives to floods in Bundibugyo which have so far killed about 20 people and mud slides in the mountaineous Elgon area believed to have claimed nearly 10 lives.
According to the President, it is a mistake for people to continue living in areas where they are actually not meant to settle, saying the earlier they realised it and accepted to be resettled, the better.
“These losses, on account of floods and landslides, are, mainly, due to the mistake of insisting on settling (living) in areas that logic and God did not intend for human habitation,” says the President.
He says such areas are wetlands and steep mountains of 31-32% gradient or more which are not meant for human settlement.
“All people in such areas should accept resettlement as we have done with the previous Bududa victims that are now settled in Bulambuli. Those cultivating in the wetlands should accept our plan of changing to fish-farming as we have done in Limoto wetland, Pallisa District,” says the President.
The President says that government may have to consider effective cash compensation to the people in these risks if they are to be resettled.
“In order to expedite the evacuation of threatened People, we may have to look at only cash compensation instead of the protracted process of resettlement which involves the allocation of planned farms, permanent houses,” says the President.
“With cash, People can, then, go and fend for themselves. The swamps and steep mountains are not for crops and human settlements (amaka). The swamps are for water, ebigugu (cyperus latifolia) and papyrus (cyperus papyrus). Undisturbed swamp water is for irrigation and the swamp grasses are for mulching (okwarira) crops,” he adds.
Government is continuing to relocate a total of 6,300 people who are in diasater prone areas of Bududa to Bulambuli where each of the households is allocated land measuring 2 and a half acres to settle.
The President says wetlands should be preserved because of their adverse importance to the people, saying, settlements destroy them. He reiterates that he will intensify the campaign for the Environment Resettlement fund so that those who were misled by the Government to go to the wetlands in the 1960s are compensated to get out.
But individuals who settled there recently he says they “should simply get out.”
“The swamp grass also helps in the manufacture of rain through transpiration (sucking water from the wetland and putting it in the atmosphere to make rain). You normally see mist (oruho) along these swamps early in the morning. That is part of that transpiration that, eventually, helps with rain formation,” says the President.
“The swamp grass also filters the water of soil and impurities and, therefore, protects the Lakes from silting filling with soil. Forests and vegetation along steep mountains use their roots to hold the soil and also act as cushion for raindrops (amakaanda) hitting the soil so that rain and the run-off water (omutuunga, omukoka, alele) does not sweep the soil, causing soil erosion and, eventually, landslides. The tree-leaves and canopy also break the force of the raindrops,” he adds.
He explained that the tree-roots and the dropping leaves, also form a soft bed on the forest floor and slows down the speed of mutuunga (run-off water) and forces the water to sink in the soil, thereby replenishing the water-table underground. Instead of water running on the surface and causing destruction, it sinks in the soil.