By Annita Matsika, Radio West/NECJOGHA
Mbarara, Uganda – Hundreds of youth from different districts of the country under the Youth Go Green umbrella have launched a campaign aimed at restoring River Rwizi.
The campaign was launched on o Friday in Mbarara shortly after closure of the fourth national youth conference on climate change, disaster risk reduction and Sustainable Development Goals. (SDGs).
The event, hosted at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), was organized under the theme Youth for Rwizi.
Over 10,000 trees were planted during the launch and more than 200 indigenous tree seedlings distributed to communities neighbouring River Rwizi, universities and youth-led community-based organisations.
Edwin Muhumuza, the chief executive officer of Youth Go Green, said the campaign is aimed at combating extreme weather conditions such as drought, which the people in River Rwizi catchment area have already suffered.
Muhumuza emphasised the need to involve youth, who make up the majority of the population, in international climate change negotiations.
He said they target to plant 10 million bamboo trees along River Rwizi in a period of five years, and would mobilise one million youth, students and the general community in the catchment area to also plant more trees.
“As young people, we decided to launch this campaign to save our river which has been destroyed massively. We want to use university students and youth organisations at all levels in the catchment area to help in the restoration of River Rwizi. This river will be no more if no serious action is taken to stop the destruction,” Muhumuza said.
Mbarara district officials and students from MUST, Bishop Stuart University, Kampala International University and Makerere Business School participated in the launch.
Muhumuza commended the water and environment ministry’s directorate of water resources management, UNDP, Wild Fund for Nature, ACODE, Mbarara district local government –Rwizi catchment committee and Nile Breweries Ltd for supporting the struggle to save River Rwizi.
River Rwizi is a major source of water for millions of people living in 10 districts of southwestern Uganda. The river, which stretches from Buhweju district up toRiver Katonga, pouring into Lake Victoria has been massively degraded. The river covers an area of 51.5km2 and the catchment area stretches out 8,200km across southwestern Uganda. The river catchment area comprises wetlands, forests, grassland and shrubs, which have been degraded.
Nicholas Mwijuka from Youth Go Green western Uganda chapter urged the community to support the campaign and look after the trees that were planted.
Prof. Celestino Obua, the vice chancellor of MUST said as universities, they have designed programmes aimed at empowering the community on the need to protect the river.
Efforts to demarcate the mandatory 100-metre buffer zone have met resistance from the community. Close to 238 pieces of land were claimed by different people encroaching on the buffer zone.
Tumusiime Bamuturaki, the head of Rwizi Catchment Protection Committee, warned politicians in the catchment areas to stop policising programmes designedto protect the environment, warning that those involved would bearrested and prosecuted.
“I call upon leaders not to be intimidated by voters. I know this is a politically charged season and I know some politicians have already jumped out of the operation to protect the environment, “he said.
Bamuturaki, who is also Mbarara district chairperson, said there will be compensation for encroachers evicted from wetlands.
He hailed the media for exposing people destroying the environment.