By Eddie Ssejjoba
Water and environment minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has asked the Egyptian government to help Uganda embark on a vigorous re-forestation campaign to regain her forest cover.
He said forest cover was vital in the formation of rainfall and without it, Uganda, the source of River Nile will be affected and this will in the long run have a toll on the levels of water that flows to Egypt.
He said assistance to Uganda should consider forests that contribute to formation of rainfall and told the Egyptians that the water cycle begins with forests that must be preserved.
“Water in River Nile starts with plants and you should be more worried about forest cover. If Uganda’s forest cover was wiped out and you sit in Cairo waiting for water, it will not come-we must therefore support reforestation in Uganda,” the minister said.
He was on Thursday addressing trainee diplomats from the Egyptian Institute for Diplomatic Studies that paid a courtesy call at the ministry headquarters in Luzira.
Ambassador Hesham Elnakib, assistant minister for Institute of Diplomatic Studies and the Egyptian ambassador to Uganda, Ahmed Abdel Aziz Mostafa led the trainees who visited Uganda to get more knowledge about the source of River Nile and Uganda’s relationship with their government.
Prof. Kamuntu said the Egyptian government had made prompt interventions when Uganda was hit by landslides in the Rwenzori region and helped the country to fight the water hyacinth that had become an environmental hazard.
“I want to inform you that the water hyacinth continues to be a threat on our water bodies, we therefore look forward for continued assistance. We also fear for a repeat of floods and any assistance is welcome,” he said.
He recognized Egypt’s assistance in constructing bore holes for clean water but said Uganda still faced challenges in the sector since 35% of rural women walk over a kilometer to fetch water.
Kamuntu applauded the Egyptian government for training diplomats from the African continent including Ugandans, which he said enhances country’s relationships.
The minister said said there was no harm in sovereign states sharing common resources for survival, adding that, “we must use this resource together for the survival of our people.”
He told the young diplomats to persuade their government to support Uganda’s efforts to preserve wetlands as well because they lead to water formation that can help in avoiding climate change effects.
Answering questions from the trainees who asked about the government’s top issues on the environmental agenda, Kamuntu said Uganda has had a bad experience of climate change because its weather patterns had changed and caused serious consequences.
“Environmental concerns are global, so climate change is a reality which will impact on the water levels including River Nile. That is why top on our agenda is the signing of the global agreement which will put measures to reduce greenhouse emissions,” he said.
Prof. Kamuntu said Uganda government was intending to carryout massive restoration of forests and reclaim wetlands as part of the agenda to check on environmental degradation.
The minister attributed the floods to climate change and asked industrialized countries to invest in technological transfer and climate change financing including human capacity development since they emit most of the greenhouse gases from industries.
“We need science and technology equipment to handle climate change but we also need improved human capacity that will be able to handle these tools,” he said.
Hesham said they could not complete their tour of African countries without coming to Uganda to experience the source of the Nile.
He said they had seen great potential for Uganda’s development and the visiting of young diplomats was a sign of the Egyptian government’s open relationship with Uganda.
He said the institute trains diplomats and technocrats from several African countries and Uganda was a beneficiary of their programs.
Hesham handed over a souvenir to the minister.