Climate and Environment Local

Kasese’s Struggle Against Nature: A Call for Sustainable Practices and Infrastructure

Innocent Kiiza is an Enviromental Investigative Journalist with passion for Climate Change, Water and Wildlife.

In the heart of Uganda’s Kasese District, a peaceful and picturesque region has been transformed into a scene of devastation. This May, the area has been hit hard by severe floods and landslides, resulting in widespread destruction and heartbreak across eleven sub-counties and town councils. The tragedy underscores the urgent need for sustainable land use practices and stronger infrastructure to protect vulnerable communities from the increasing threats posed by climate change and environmental mismanagement.

The Night of Horror.

Musoki Janet, a resident of Mapata in Bugoye Sub County, will never forget the night of May 7th. As torrential rains battered their home, a catastrophic mudslide ensued. Musoki desperately tried to save her children, but her efforts were in vain.

“I initially thought I could save my children,” Musoki recounted with tears streaming down her face. “I was struggling to remove the collapsed wall, calling for help. We tried to retrieve them, but by the time we got to Mbambu Dorika, 13, and Kabugho Bridget, 10, they were already gone.”

The devastation didn’t stop there. That same night, heavy rains claimed the lives of several others in the community, including Muhindo Faibi, 37, Kasebere Moses, 55, and even a week-old infant, Ndungu. The disaster was unprecedented, with rivers like Nyamugasani, Rwembyo, Kabiri, Isule, Hima Kuruhe, and Muhokya, which had never flooded before, becoming torrents of destruction.

The Causes of Disaster.

Several factors have contributed to the severity of this disaster. Elias Byamungu, the chairperson of the Kasese District disaster committee, cited heavy rains, deforestation, quarrying, poor farming practices, and construction on steep slopes as major contributors.

“Communities have built on land that is not safe, often without proper construction methods,” Byamungu explained. “This disaster is a tragic reminder of the consequences of these practices. We must address these underlying issues to prevent future tragedies.”

A Broader Perspective: Climate Change and Environmental Mismanagement.

The events in Kasese are a stark illustration of the broader impacts of climate change and environmental mismanagement. Uganda’s changing climate has led to more unpredictable and severe weather patterns, increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. The destruction of forests for agriculture and other purposes has exacerbated the situation by destabilizing the soil and reducing the land’s ability to absorb rainfall.

Joseph Singoma, the District Disaster focal person, emphasized the critical need for sustainable land use practices. “We must implement reforestation programs, promote sustainable farming techniques, and ensure that construction adheres to safety standards,” Singoma said. “These measures are essential to mitigate the impact of future floods and landslides.”

The Human Toll.

The human impact of the disaster is staggering. Nearly 5,400 people have been forced to leave their homes, now living in temporary shelters or with relatives. Bugoye Sub County is one of the worst-hit areas, with villages like Mapata, Mulehe, and Nyangonge almost entirely destroyed. Over 220 families are affected, and 60 of them are now living in a camp at Mapata Trading Centre. Their farms, covering more than 150 acres, are buried under mud, ruining crops and livestock.

In Maliba Sub County, the situation is similarly dire. Villages such as Isule, Muwero, and Kihindi are flooded. Over 6,000 people have been affected, with nearly 1,800 now living in camps at Kyabikuha and Buhunga Primary Schools. Schools, health centers, and homes have been destroyed, leaving people struggling to cope.

Community Response and Resilience.

Despite the immense challenges, the people of Kasese have shown remarkable resilience. Communities have come together to support each other, setting up camps and providing shelter. Aid organizations and government agencies are working tirelessly to deliver much-needed help.

Tumusiime Grace, a resident of Bugoye, spoke about the solidarity within her community. “We’ve lost so much, but we are not alone. Neighbors are helping each other, sharing food and shelter. The government and NGOs are providing support, and we are determined to rebuild,” she said.

The Uganda Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations have established temporary shelters and are providing essential supplies such as food, water, and medical aid. The government has pledged to rebuild damaged infrastructure and support the affected families in recovering their livelihoods.

A Call to Action.

The disaster in Kasese District underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to disaster management. This includes not only immediate relief efforts but also long-term strategies to address the root causes of such disasters. Sustainable land use practices, robust infrastructure, and enhanced disaster preparedness are crucial to mitigating the impact of future calamities.

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) has warned that the rainy season is expected to continue from May to December. Dr. Bob Alex Ogwang, the Acting Authority Director, stated, “The country is to experience near normal (near the average) to above normal (enhanced) rainfall over the forecast period of March, April, and May (MMM) 2024.”

Uganda typically experiences two major rainy seasons: MMM and September–October–November–December (SOND). Regions in the northern sector of the country also experience a third rainfall season during the June-July-August (JJA) period. These seasonal rains, while vital for agriculture, can also lead to devastating floods and landslides if not properly managed.

Building a Resilient Future.

As Kasese District begins the arduous task of recovery, there are several key steps that need to be taken to build a more resilient future. First, there must be a concerted effort to reforest and restore degraded lands. Reforestation not only stabilizes the soil but also helps regulate water flow, reducing the risk of floods and landslides.

Second, sustainable agricultural practices should be promoted to enhance food security while protecting the environment. This includes using terracing and agroforestry techniques that reduce soil erosion and improve water retention.

Third, infrastructure development must prioritize resilience. Building roads, bridges, and homes that can withstand extreme weather conditions is essential. This requires adhering to construction standards and regulations designed to protect against natural disasters.

Fourth, disaster preparedness and response mechanisms need to be strengthened. This includes early warning systems, community education programs, and effective coordination between government agencies and humanitarian organizations.

The tragedy in Kasese District is a stark reminder of the power of nature and the vulnerability of human settlements. It calls for urgent action to address the root causes of such disasters and build a more resilient future for the affected communities. While the immediate focus is on providing relief and support to those affected, the long-term goal must be to implement sustainable practices and robust infrastructure to mitigate the impact of future natural disasters.

The people of Kasese, despite the immense challenges they face, have shown incredible resilience and solidarity. Their determination to rebuild their lives and support one another is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. As they work through this difficult time, their story serves as a powerful reminder of the need for sustainable development and disaster preparedness in the face of an increasingly unpredictable climate.

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