A new project in
Uganda shows that wetlands are good not only for the environment, but for the
economy as well. Leaders now have new maps that will allow them to better
manage wetlands and make better use of resources.
Never take a swamp
for granted. It can protect you against floods, filter pollution from water, provide
food and materials and be a water source during the dry seasons. What's more,
it can help fight poverty.
So says a new
report – Mapping a Better Future: How Spatial Analysis Can Benefit Wetlands and
Reduce Poverty in Uganda. It's a joint effort by the World Resources Institute,
various Ugandan government agencies and the International Livestock Research Institute.
The report contains maps that overlay the country's wetland and economic zones.
of the World Resources Institute is one of the authors of the new report.
"In the local
language they're called swamps. And it's any area that has water temporarily or
all the time. And the two major types you have in wetlands are seasonal
wetlands. So like in grasslands or you have papyrus swamps – wetlands that are
permanently wet," he says.
He says the new
maps make for more efficient use of the wetlands.
"About 13 percent
of the land of Uganda is covered by wetlands. So every county, every district
has wetlands and know the location of wetlands allows you to do better
management and do better allocation of resources," he says.
The maps can help
create an inventory of what products are being used from wetlands and whether
production can be increased.
"The other way to
create economic opportunities is to pay for the services of wetlands that are
not right now in the market, such as regulating floods, removing pollutants from
water and cleaning the water," he says.
For example, better
management of wetlands around Uganda's capital can bring both environmental and
"Because of the
degradation of wetlands around Kampala, the costs for the water treatment plan
for Kampala have increased tremendously because there is more sediment in the
water in Lake Victoria. Restoring some wetlands, provide more filtering, may be
a very smart way to create economic opportunities and reduce the cost of water
treatment for Kampala," he says.
The new maps show
both poor and developed areas of Uganda have experienced wetlands degradation.
Climate change is
also a concern. For example, it could result in less rainfall to feed the
wetlands. Or it could also raise temperatures and reduce run-off from
mountaintop snow packs, such as those on the so-called Mountains of the Moon in
the Rwenzori Mountains. If that happens, Henninger says some wetlands could