Environmental experts say that up to ten billion shillings is required to protect the River Rwizi catchment area annually. The money is to fund technical as well as psychosocial interventions in the 16 districts of southwestern and central Uganda through which the river passes.

This was revealed by experts from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Victoria Water Management Zone under the Ministry of Water and Environment, during the issuance of the progress report on the intervention program to save River Rwizi, which started in 2019. 

River Rwizi provides a livelihood to the population in 16 districts of southwestern and central regions and has had its water levels reduced due to illegal human activities along its banks.

Environmentalists have been warning that the trend of river bank encroachment and wetland degradation if not reversed would lead to the extinction of River Rwizi and its tributaries.

Ivan Tumuhimbise, the WWF Country Head for Uganda, said that the first two phases of the program were about boundary markings, as well as mobilizing communities along the river. “When you are doing boundary marking, in areas where there is land scarcity, there is always contestation, but working with local leaders, we were able to get buy-in and the boundaries were marked.”

He adds that the marked boundaries include nature-based initiatives like tree planting to avoid river silting.

According to Tumuhimbise, they are now looking at increasing the outreach program. 

“Subsequently, what we will be looking at is how we can increase the outreach beyond the work that we have done in Kacyigani and the southern parts of the river. Now we want to work on both sides of the river to reach more people. We are targeting to reach about 27 km, away from the 6.5 we have so far done,” he says.

Stephen Emor, the team leader of the Victoria Water Management Zone, and the lead implementer says the next phase will also require more partners to join in the effort to restore the river to its past glory. “We are looking for ways of averting plastic pollution in this river because in urban areas like Mbarara, plastic pollution in this river is a huge problem, but we also need to build protocols for water quality and quantity monitoring because gains in these aspects are the greatest focus of all the interventions.”

Studies show that the 8,700 kilometers, which is the biggest source of water in the southwestern region, has lost over 60 percent of its catchment area due to sustained degradation by human encroachment and poor agricultural practices, and this has been instigated by population pressure and search livelihood. The degradation starts directly from the source.


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