Over the past years thousands of people Ugandan men, women and children were made homeless as a result of recurrent floods and landslides from Mt. Rwenzori that swept across villages and destroying hundreds of homes and acres of farm lands. Many people were killed while several hundreds more were injured and left homeless. An estimated 50,000 people were directly affected and
forced to flee their homes as climate refugees and nearly 5,000 acres of crops were destroyed since 2015.
As the result of recurring disasters, many communities are inundated with soil and mud andhundreds of peoples are forced to live in makeshift shelters without food, clean Water and Sanitation supplies.
Poorly maintained mountain slopes due to the pressure from human settlement and farming activities which resulted into floods and landslides that always submerged the area in at least one meter of mud is the main cause of this unimaginable suffering.
Unprepared for reoccurring disaster
Senior researchers and Climate Change specialists from Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Initiative-CESI are cautioning against global warming, which is contributing to the change of weather pattern including increased intensity and frequency of floods and landslides.
These floods may hit the landmass and cause large-scale damage to the lives and livelihoods of low lying areas. Uganda is becoming one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world, with frequent floods and landslides, as well as susceptibility to drought.
Climate change is predicted to make matters worse as changes in rainfall patterns raise the risk of floods, mudslides/landslides and bursting of river banks which erode and inundate low lying areas.
Reducing the Suffering
As the intensity and frequency of floods and landslides in the region are increasing on the mountain slope areas of Rwenzori, community must be prepared. The government authorities and development organizations have initiated many disaster preparedness measures to help vulnerable communities prepare themselves. However, the damage caused by floods and landslides has shown that much more work needs to be done to reduce or prevent destruction and suffering. While it’s impossible to prevent a natural event such as floods and landslides from occurring, government can significantly reduce their impact. The Uganda government, International humanitarian/development agencies and Civil Society Organisations should do more to reduce the vulnerability of those living in disaster-prone areas. Government and the international community must assist these communities to recover the loss from the current disaster and prepare them better for any future disaster. In addition to reconstructing people’s homes, Government officials and donor countries must ensure that communities are involved in disaster-preparedness strategies at all levels. Since 2015, the Rwenzori region alone has experienced disastrous floods from rivers in Kasese and Bundibugyo. Events like floods and landslides may become more frequent in the low lying and mountain slope areas of Rwenzori. Without adequate measures by the government, international community and the CSO, millions of lives may be destroyed by these reoccurring natural disasters. In past few years, the Government of Uganda have achieved significant improvement in early warning system and disaster risk reduction initiatives. However, floods and landslides have showed us that much more is needed to protect lives and livelihoods of people living in the low lying and mountain slopes areas. The communities need timely and accurate information, capacity building including training, resources and technologies to face the destructive impact of climate change.
Destruction of the Mountain slopes
The inevitability of landslides and floods could not be escaped but much of the disastrous aftermath could have been prevented. The Landslides came during the heavy rainfall causing high runoffs from the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori to the low lying areas and bursting of rivers banks. Lack of conservation efforts, poor agricultural practices and human settlements over the years weakened these slopes, which could not withstand water runoffs. Additionally, soil erosion has made the slopes weaker over the years. Without enforcement of laws to protect the human settlement and farming activities, floods and landslides will continue destroying hundreds acres of cropland for the next years.
These parts of the river banks are often repaired with easily eroded, poor quality ‘dry and granular soils’, reducing its ability to withstand strong floods. Slopes on both sides are also important for the bank to protect itself from flood force. The district local officials from affected districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo failed to maintain required slopes on both sides, making the banks vulnerable. Over the years the protective buffer zone (with natural vegetation) had slowly disappeared due to leasing out of land, water bodies and forests.
- Restoration of the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori and repair of the river bank should be prioritized to help people return to their homes. Government must ensure that the river bank is repaired according to necessary technical specification to stop future floods with enough slope to both sides and enough space for protective vegetation
- Government must vigilantly enforce laws to stop any illegal settlements and farming activities on the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori. The government must ensure proper and regular maintenance of the river banks and respective authorities must stop leasing out lands for farming within the forests on the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori.
- Communities, Civil societies and development agencies must be consulted in the decision making of the restoration and conservation of Mt. Rwenzori vegetation cover, maintenance and repair of river banks. The local authorities must be transparent to ensure that local farmers do not bypass the law.
- Government must issue an immediate standing order to prohibit all farming activities and settlements on the mountain slopes. Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, and district administration must ensure the restoration of forest cover and better farming practices in this area. This standing order needs to become into a law for proper implementation.
- The government of Uganda and the international aid and development agencies must
- Prioritize the rapid restoration of livelihoods across the flood-affected areas. As the flood water has inundated hundreds of acres of land, most agriculturally dependent people will not able to plant anything for the next crop season. A massive alternative livelihood initiative is urgently needed.
- The permanent availability of drinking water throughout the year should be developed. Local residents must be trained in rainwater harvesting and water purification techniques. In addition the government must develop a contingency planning and preventive measures against outbreaks of water borne diseases.
- Government, international community and Civil Society Organisations must help these vulnerable communities to rebuild their homes and make them more disaster resilient. Homesteads must be raised above the regular flood level and ways to keep animals safe must be found and implemented.
- More floods shelters are needed to house the affected population of these areas during and after floods. The roads must be maintained and repaired to ensure access to these communities during times of disaster.
- All governments should act proactively to reach a fair and safe deal in climate negotiations.