ACTING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE, AN EMERGENCY. NOW IS THE TIME LEST OUR PLANET ERODES

Uganda’s climate is naturally variable and
susceptible to flood and drought events but many human factors have greatly
contributed to the increased change in climate. Different practices like
deforestation and others have had a very negative implication on natural
resources that have consequently affected climate patterns in different regions
of the country. The government and other responsible authorities are not doing
enough to curb these vices that are eating up the planet even when communities
call them to intervene.

This year’s Global Climate Strike (Friday 20 September) thousands of young people across the world will be striking for the climate. There have been numerous climate strikes across the world and now young people are calling adults to join them as part of a massive global day of action. Very many campaigners and communities across the world have organized actions and activities that are meant to amplify their voices against climate change, which is slowly eroding the planet and affecting livelihoods around the globe. Together with millions of young people, thousands of youth in Uganda have joined the rest of the world as they seek Climate Justice. Kampala streets and a few other areas are filled with youth demanding a healthier and safe climate and environment.

Young people feel threatened by the effects of climate change and so they rise for Climate justice or they risk diving deep into poverty and its associated risks for generations to come. They have abandoned their school and work schedules in favor of the #ClimateStrike. There were youthful and creative flash mobs around Kampala Capital city. The youth matched to the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, presenting a petition demanding enhanced implementation and strengthening of existing policies on environment and climate.

According to the 2008 LTS International report on Climate Change in Uganda, Climate change is likely to have a wide range of interrelated impacts for the environment and economy of Uganda and the well being of its people. The headline impacts are likely to be, increased food insecurity, shifts in areas affected and increased incidence in some areas of diseases, such as dengue fever, malaria and water-borne diseases associated with floods, elevated rates of erosion and land degradation because of increased mean rainfall or higher intensity events, greater risks of flood damage to infrastructure, property and settlements, shifts in the viable area for coffee cultivation with increased temperature, reduced output of the maize crop, reduction in grazing potential within the cattle corridor, biodiversity loss and extinctions as niches are closed out by temperature increases and pressure on natural resources.

Many of these effects of climate change are already evident. Heavy rains accompanied by serious floods and landslides have been witnessed in various parts of the country. The people of Eastern Uganda in areas of Bududa and Bulambuli have on many occasions been victims of the landslides and floods with many registered death and property destruction. Many suburbs in and around Kampala have been flooding. The most recent being around Natete and Zaana areas to mention but a few.  According to the Uganda Meteorological Department, above normal heavy rains are expected to continue in the coming weeks across the country meaning people living in the flooding area will keep distressed for some time and if nothing is done it will keep happening for as long as heavy rains come.

In the past, we have had severe drought seasons leading to food shortage and starvation in many parts of the country especially the area of the “cattle corridors” stretching from western Uganda through the central region to Teso and Karamoja in the north-east. These changing climatic seasons always have drastic effects on Uganda’s economic backbone – Agriculture. Farmers both small and large scale reap very little or nothing during these seasons. This, in turn, cripples the economy affecting the tax base and people’s livelihoods.

Amuru Youth offload a charcoal truck that they intercepted

A few weeks ago Amuru youth decided not to waste any more time lobbying authorities to help them stop the persistent deforestation in their district. This is a result of charcoal burning by various businessmen who harshly keep cutting down the trees without considering the consequences this has on the environment and the livelihoods of the people in this community. Since the responsible authorities seemed not bothered, the youth decided that enough was enough so they started blocking numerous truckloads of charcoal from leaving their district. They seized the charcoal and set it on fire. This resulted in losses for businessmen exploiting the environment, including a certain policeman whose colleagues showed up to rescue him, but failed to do so due to the overwhelming numbers of youth that had taken direct action against those pillaging their land. Some of the impounded trucks were driven to the police station.

This, consequently brought the Amuru DISO and others behind the cause, supporting the youth in their efforts to seize, impound, and destroy any charcoal purchases incentivizing Amuru residents to destroy their forests. The climate crisis requires such actions not only from the youth but also from everybody around the world lest our planet erodes. It is time for us to rise and save mother earth

While petitioning the government is good, there must be deliberate efforts from citizens and communities to curb climate change. Many times, the government (particularly in Uganda), has not taken most petitions so seriously, they are just ceremonial. This is because in some cases, the government is directly or indirectly perpetuates them through its agencies or investors and big business owners.

It is time for more direct action from communities to save the planet and reclaim climate justice. Deforestation, charcoal burning, swamp reclamation, and other harmful practices must be considerably reduced if we are to survive the negative implications of Climate Change. The urgency of the climate crisis requires a new approach and a just response centered on human rights, equity, and justice. We must all intentionally fight and act towards climate Justice.

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