Attempts by environmentalists to save the River Mpanga from pollution have yielded no fruit, despite billions of shillings injected into restoration measures. The river flows from the Rwenzori Mountains into Lake George, through the districts of Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kitagwenda, Ibanda, and Kamwenge.
Over the years, there has been an unprecedented increase in pollution and encroachment on its banks. Construction of permanent houses, car washing bays, sand mining, brick-laying and crop production activities have led to the silting of the river bed.
Several trees that were planted near the river banks along the Fort Portal-Kamwenge road have also been cut. In Fort Portal town, where a section of the river flows, the stream is running dry and losing its colour.
The Ministry of Water and Environment, Fort Portal City Council, and other environmental organisations devised measures to protect the river. Some of the measures included sensitization, restoring protection zones, setting up environmental committees, and others.
Martin Watsisi, the International Water and Sanitation Centre-IRC Fort Portal Branch Manager, says that they annually spend at least 20 million shillings to support activities intended to save the River Mpanga. He explains that the money is spent on sensitization campaigns.
Brian Emmanuel Guma, the team leader for the Albert Management Water Zone in the Ministry of Water, says the Ministry came up with the River Mpanga Catchment Management Plan at 30 billion shillings for the restoration campaign. According to Guma, despite the funds put into the plan, they don’t see any improvement in the protection of the river.
He, however, says that the ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that human activities are on the banks of the river.
As some of the measures to curb encroachment, the Ministry conducted sensitization and demarcation of the river banks.
Richard Muhumuza, the Central Division Mayor of Fort Portal, says the division has committed 19 million shillings this financial year and will maintain the funding in other subsequent years to ensure the river is routinely de-silted. He says that they will enforce the eviction of encroachers along the river.
Edgar Muganzi, the Executive Director of Natural Resources Defense Initiative-NRDI, says his organisation has supported the River Mpanga restoration Campaign with local tree species which have been planted along the River Banks.
Muganzi says several people have continued to disregard the bylaws that were established despite numerous sensitization campaigns.
Edson Asaba Ruyonga, the Fort Portal City Mayor, says the city is considering evicting all the washing bays along the river banks to reduce the pollution levels.