Thursday, August 15, 2013

Uganda Loses Wetland to Rose Farming Business

Despite loud protests by environmentalists in Uganda, trucks dumped dirt into the wetland until the soggy ground where herons once stood among swaying papyrus plants was firm and dry. The destruction of the wetland was carried out so a rose farm owned by a fabulously wealthy businessman could be expanded. The area on Lake Victoria's Lutembe Bay was deemed to be of international importance under an international convention on wetlands but, asked by activists to intervene, Uganda's environmental protection agency instead sided with industry, saying any damage inflicted upon the wetland didn't match the economic benefits of exporting more flowers. The authorized encroachment on Uganda's Lutembe Bay wetland, a site that protects Lake Victoria's fragile ecosystem, highlights a growing conflict between business and the environment as African countries strive for economic development. Although Africa's endangered forests have attracted a lot more attention from campaigners, some experts say wetlands across the continent are suffering a similar —if not worse —fate, often because their value to human wellbeing is underestimated or not understood at all. Experts say the wetland along Lutembe Bay supports globally threatened species of birds, fish and butterflies, including some rare ones. It also plays a crucial hydrological role, with the swamps "acting as natural filters for silt, sediments and excess nutrients in surface run-off, wastewaters from industries, and sewage from Kampala City," according to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, a global treaty that promotes the wise use of wetlands and which lists those deemed to be of international importance. The Ramsar Convention says that, although more wetlands are being designated for protection across Africa, protecting these sites "remains a challenge." A report last month by the convention's secretariat said that "Africa shows an urgent need to define a strategy" for conserving its wetlands and their resources. Read more at

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