Uganda: Draining Wetlands Exposes Organic Peat

Uganda: Draining Wetlands Exposes OrganicPeat

6 December 2006

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Uganda — Draining wetlands in Uganda could unlock carbon,which combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, the most dreaded Green HouseGas responsible for climate changes.

According to the Senior Wetlands Assessment Officer at theWetlands Inspection Division Norah Namakambo, 45 per cent of wetlands in Ugandaare peat lands and should be protected from drainage for climatic reasons.

Ms Nnamakambo said the peat lands are scattered all overthe country.

Peat lands are areas containing peat, an organic materialthat forms in water logged, sterile and acidic conditions or under lowtemperatures.

As plants die, they do not decompose. The organic matteris laid down and slowly accumulates, forming peat because of lack of oxygen.Peat then locks up the carbon that would otherwise increase the Green House Gaseffect.

Peat scientists at the United Nations Climate ChangeSummit that took place from November 6 to 17 in Nairobi said they had beenstudying Uganda’s wetlands and found them to contain a lot of peat.

They warned that draining wetlands containing peat leadsto unlocking of the carbon, hence leading to climate changes that might notfavour people’s lives.

The head of the department of Biodiversity Conservationand Protected Areas at the Federal Centre of Geological Systems in RussiaMinayeva Tatiana warned that use of fire in clearing and fertilising peat-basedagricultural areas is a bad practice as fire unlocks the carbon stored in peatlands.

The Peat Inventory Report at the Wetlands InspectionDivision says peat deposits are found in various parts of the country. It wasdiscovered in Musamya, about 8 kilometres southeast of Kayunga and in Sezzibwavalley, south of Kayunga district.

In Matumbwe valley, about 3 kilometres southeast fromNakifuma in Kayunga district, peat deposit was 0.7metres thick while inNamulanda valley, it was found at 0.8 metres.

In Odwali valley, about 16 kilometres south of Soroti, thedeposits stood at 0.3 kilometres while in Mpologoma valley, about 11kilometressouth west of Palisa, it stood at a thickness of 1.2 metres. Other surveyedplaces including south-western parts of Uganda had thicker deposits.

Nema’s 2002 report on environment shows a lot of wetlandshave been encroached on for industrialisation and settlement, exposing lots ofpeat deposits to oxygen, a thing that endangers people’s lives in a long run.

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