The latest floods in Kasese district are blamed on the wild fire that burnt a section of the Rwenzori Mountains last year. Joseph Katswera, the Kasese district natural resources officer, says that fire burnt several forest cover that had been holding water during the rainy season and preventing soil erosion. He says that when the canopies which were acting as catchment areas were burnt, there were no barriers to stop the heavy and fast running water.
The floods triggered by heavy rains that began on May 1, have killed at least 10 people and displaced more than 20,000 others over the last one week. Infrastructure including roads and building structures billions of shillings was also destroyed.
Last year, wild fires gutted Rwenzori Mountains National Park destroying wildlife and other tourist attractions. The fires also destroyed all the trees at the hill tops and on the slopes of the mountain.
Joseph Katswera, the Kasese district natural resources officer, says that fire burnt several forest cover that had been holding water during the rainy season and preventing soil erosion. He says that when the canopies which were acting as catchment areas were burnt, there were no barriers to stop the heavy and fast running water.
According to Katswera, in the past before the vegetation in the mountains was burnt, there weren’t heavy floods despite the heavy rains.
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Katswera also blames the rampant human activity on the hill tops, which has resulted into degradation of the vegetation. He says that the residents have invaded the foot hills in search for herbs, firewood and timber.
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Last year, Kasese district natural resources department, in an environment assessment report, indicated that 80% of the population living in the hilly areas of Bugoye and Maliba, were deriving their livelihood from the national park.
Katswera says the district is implementing a World Wide Fund (WWF) programme, which involves planting 500 hectares of trees in Bugyoye and Maliba sub counties, which are overlooking the mountains. He adds that the district is mobilizing the residents in the sub counties on environmental conservation.
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Major General Julius Oketta, the National Coordinator of the Rescue and Emergency Relief Services, says they are investigating reports that some people are still cultivating on the hilltops. He also says that people living on the slopes of the mountain have been advised to vacate. Oketta says that there are fears that the heavy rainfall may again pound villages in Karusandara, Kilembe and Maliba sub counties.
He says that the people living on the slopes should either move to the camps or stay with host families, until the situation normalizes.
However, Godfrey Kasozi, the Karusandara, sub county chairperson says there should be alternative land for resettlement before the people are told to vacate.