Several media outlets have reported that some unpatriotic government bureaucrats have mooted yet another harebrained idea to destroy one of Uganda’s leading tourism site- the Murchison Falls by allowing a private investor to develop a hydro-power dam.
This is not the first of their machinations to tamper with what is left of the country’s tourism and environment protected areas . It is not a while ago, that government had to rescind another ridiculous idea to give away Mabira tropical forest to a private sugar cane grower after the citizens rose up in arms in a rare show of solidarity to save one of Africa’s largest natural forests.
For starters, the 4,000 sq .kilometers Murchison Falls which has since been turned into a protected national park is one of Uganda’s ancient conservation sites and it stretches from the Albertine rift valley up to the plains of the Acholi land . It is home to an estimated 76 and 451 mammal and bird species.
The 143ft Murchison water falls is not only tourists marvel to behold, it is a sanctuary to a wide diversity of flora and fauna which is a clear testament for its unreserved protection by all the peoples of the world. This is the reason why government and the few officials who are flirting with the illegal idea to alienate the Murchison Falls should in earnest be reminded about Uganda’s local and international legal obligations.
Under the constitution of Uganda, natural resources such as forest, water falls, national parks, minerals among others are held and managed by the elected government (this time the NRM led by President Yoweri Museveni) in trust for the wellbeing of all the people of Uganda. The Murchison Falls is one such natural resource that must be protected for the common good of the citizens.
If allowed to carry out their self-centered decisions to give away the, the purported dam -would significantly change the land use of the gazette Murchison Falls national park and as a result, grossly violate the citizens’ constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment as envisioned in our national constitution.
Further still, a well-settled -intergenerational -international environmental law principle provides for equity in the exploitation of environmental resources between and among generations. The principles allude to the fact that the present generation should that the healthy, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained for the benefit of the present and future generations.
In other words, this settle principal of international environmental law confers rights on future generations and imposes a correlative duty of good stewardship over environmental resources by the resent generation. We can not, therefore, watch on haplessly as the country’s environment is being destroyed by a few for selfish purposes.
The International court of justice has since pronounced itself on the intergenerational principle to preserve the environment and give it efficacy. The court ruled that the environment is not an abstraction but rather represents the living space, forests, water- the quality of life and the very health of humans including generations unborn.
Government bureaucrats, therefore, should be reminded that the government they serve is bound by local and international law instruments to conserve and sustainably utilize our natural and biological resources. It is also of paramount importance to note that environment experts have already declared and equated the dangers posed by climate change to those of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats of humankind in the 21 century.
The Public Trust Doctrine in the management of Uganda’s natural resources as provided in the national constitution must be exercised for what it is –to protect the country’s environment and natural resources including but not limited to the Murchison Falls.
The writer is an Advocate of the High Court and media/communications consultant /trainer.
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