Numbers of the Grey Crowned Crane, Uganda’s symbolic bird continue to fall
Uganda’s ministry of Water and Environment this week announced that the numbers of the country’s Grey Crowned Crane, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum, are greatly reducing due to Environmental Degradation which has destroyed their natural habitats.
The bird is the national emblem of Uganda and it appears both on the country’s flag and coat of arms. The names of the country’s male and female football national teams, The Uganda Cranes and the She Cranes respectively are derived.
The country’s junior minister for Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, said that due to the destruction of many wetlands that are natural habitants to the bird, its numbers have reduced from 100,000 in 1996 to 10,000 in 2016.
“The research we conducted as the Ministry of Water and Environment indicates that since 1990; wetlands declined from 15.6% to 8.4% in 2017 at a rate of 2-2.5 % annually, while forests cover reduced from 24% to 9% in 2015 at a rate of 1.4% annually making Uganda among the most rapidly deforesting nations in the world,” Anywar said.
In a raft of observations, the minister noted that the amount of water available annually in the country has also declined from 66 billion km3 in 2005 to 43 billion km3 by 2012 and the situation is projected to worsen by 2040 which will impact the water needs of the various sectors of the economy.
This rapid decline has been attributed to several drivers including but not limited to industrialization, unplanned urbanization, deforestation and agriculture, high population growth rate currently at 3.2% annually and high poverty levels among others.
“As a result, the Cabinet has agreed on taking several immediate actions to secure environment and natural resources all over the country,” Anywar announced in Kampala.
Among these, cabinet directed all encroachers in the government forest reserves, lakeshores, and riverbanks voluntarily leave or risk being evicted.
“Encroachers are hereby given time to harvest their crops and voluntarily vacate. Those who fail to comply will be evicted. Encroachers in rural wetlands will be mobilized and re-organized to engage into alternative sustainable wetlands utilization models,” she said.
Cabinet also banned the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands and ordered encroachers who illegally grabbed urban wetlands to voluntarily vacate or be evicted.
Cabinet also resolved that all titles illegally issued in wetlands and Forest reserves must be canceled by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the people who issued them prosecuted while boundaries of Forest reserves, Lakes shores, Riverbanks and wetlands will all be demarcated, marked with pillars, live markers and titled years.