With the discovery of the commercially viable oil quantities in the Albetine Graben and the ongoing transition from exploration to the development phase towards oil production, a lot of environmental concerns have emerged with all signs of multiple approaches.
I have personally seen pressure on fragile ecosystems rising along with the progress of the oil industry perhaps because the oil and gas extraction is associated with many opportunities which have been a magnet in the past decade.
Wetlands including Wambabya, Kafu, Nguse, Waki and Waiga have seen serious encroachment alongside the historical threat against Bugoma Central Forest Reserve that until now remains at risk of being replaced with sugarcane plantations.
With all that evident, I have seen no leaders standing boldly to oppose environmental degradation yet the impacts of climate change resulting from abuse of environment grips everybody regardless of tribe, gender, political affiliation and wealth.
However, I can agree that the poorest are the first affected but the rich will also be affected in the near time because they depend on the poor for prosperity. More so, we breathe the same oxygen and share blood in hospitals when we are sick no matter the standard of the hospital.
It is on this background that I call upon the honourable men and women elected to represent different constituencies of Bunyoro kingdom in the 2021-2026 House to prioritise conservation of natural resources in the Albertine region. The newly elected Members of Parliament should energise those that were given a new term to make real the link between leadership and the natural environment.
They should make close and objective frequent engagements with the parliamentary committee on natural resources and other key players as oil host Members of Parliament to overturn the complex era of environmental and social problems made in the far and near past.
I think the ongoing Bugoma forest destruction, floods on Lake Albert associated with climate change and unpredictable agricultural seasons evident should be some of their points of focus and eye openers.
We, the voters are now demanding for environment justice through enacting and implementing relevant polices and laws to safeguard the remaining protected areas and restore the degraded ecosystems.
The next stages in the oil and gas sector are expected to have numerous negative impacts on the environment, hence, validating the urgent need for leaders to use their mandate to strike the balance between development and environment that we all absolutely need.
Bunyoro leaders need to explore and imitate the models of conservation in and outside Uganda to enable co-existence between man and wildlife. I think this also involves adoption of strategies to communicate, understand and collaborate with diverse disciplines and traditions to find lasting solutions on environmental problems.
Environmental challenges might be limitless while resources used to meet the challenges are limited. Leaders must prioritise environmental demands and needs of the Banyoro and Ugandans.
The writer, Ms Sandra Atusinguza, is a Field Officer working with the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org