Wetlands are some of the zones which have been misused by surrounding communities despite the huge benefits they provide in the ecosystem. Based on a definition by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a wetland is an area or zone where soil is covered or saturated by water at different times of the year or throughout the year. Wetlands provide habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial species. The aquatic environment offers ideal conditions for the growth and establishment of aquatic plants and promotes the development of soils with aquatic characteristics. Wetlands basically comprise estuarine deltas, marshes, the edges of lakes and seas as well as ponds in low-lying areas that are often flooded and act as as nurseries or habitat for various types of animals including birds, invertebrates, mammals and fish. Other ecosystem services provided by the wetlands that benefit humanity- include for example water filtration and freshwater supply, food throughout cultivation of rice, building materials, storm protection, flood control, recreation as they offer great natural beauty, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation. Wetlands act as sediment traps for runoff and sequester atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis. Carbon is contained mainly in, peat, organic soils, living vegetation and sediments, which in some cases have formed and accumulated over several millennia. Due to their highly productive nature, neglecting and abandoning the wetlands will make them to naturally regenerate and continue to offer their benefits to the ecosystem at large. This is of great concern mainly to environmental and climate change activists because cities without wetlands, spend more financial resources to treat water for their dwellers, floods gets more catastrophic especially to neighboring communities, coastal storm surges from hurricanes move further into hinterland and food supplies and livelihoods are disrupted. Proper management of existing wetlands and establishment of new wetlands is a good example of a nature based solution (NbS) to solve the siltation menace faced by all African Great Lakes especially during periods of high rainfall in their respective areas.
Various governments, World Wildlife Fund, and other organizations through the Ramsar Convention have for a period exceeding four decades pursued efforts to conserve and protect wetlands. Within the African Great Lakes, the Ramsar Convention has listed several wetlands as “Wetlands of International Importance”. They include Mozambique’s Lake Niassa which also forms part of the Miombo Woodlands eco-region, the Zambian shoreline of Lake Tanganyika which is about 238km in Zambia, Burundi’s Parc Nationale de la Rusizi, located north of Lake Tanganyika and with some parts of the Lower Rusizi plain extending to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, the Ramsar sites are the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta wetland System stretching between the peaks of the Murchison Falls to the Victoria Nile delta’s confluence with Lake Albert. The Lake Victoria region in Uganda has four Wetlands of International Importance, namely: Lutembe Bay Wetland System, Sango Bay-Musambwa Island-Kagera Wetland System (SAMUKA), Mabamba Bay Wetland System and Nabajjuzi Wetland System. Geographically, Lutembe Bay Wetland System is located at the mouth of Murchison Bay while Sango Bay-Musambwa Island-Kagera Wetland System (SAMUKA) is found in Musambwa Island and offshore of the Sango Bay for about 3 kilometers. Mabamba Bay Wetland System is a narrow and long bay rich in papyrus plants northwest of the Entebbe peninsula towards the main body of Lake Victoria while Nabajjuzi Wetland System is a narrow and long swampy stretch from the periphery of Masaka extending to the major Katonga River System.
Legal frameworks which governs wetlands management and conservation differ from one country to another within the African Great Lakes region. This calls for the countries of this region to come together and ratify similar rules and measures to govern the wetlands for the benefit of all the communities around them. Establishment of community based organizations will also contribute positively in the conservation of these wetlands.
- Uganda Wildlife Authority: Conserving for generations https://www.ugandawildlife.org/wildlife-a-conservation-2/conservation/ramsar-sites
- What is a Wetland? And 8 other Wetland Facts, 2021 https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-a-wetland-and-8-other-wetland-facts
- Wetlands of International Importance 2014 https://www.ramsar.org/sites-countries/wetlands-of-international-importance
- Ramsar Site Information Service, https://rsis.ramsar.org/ris
- United States Environmental Protection Agency 2021, https://www.epa.gov/wetlands
- Boadu, Fredrick O. 2016 Transboundary Water Resources and Wetlands, Agricultural Law and Economics in Sub-Saharan Africa, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801771-5.00016-2