Yahaya Barirega Akankwasa, the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has announced the commencement of a recruitment process for an independent force responsible for environmental management.
Speaking at the World Environment Day celebrations held at Kololo grounds in Kampala Monday, Barirega stated that the recruitment process was already underway and progressing smoothly. Barirega noted the lack of a dedicated and independent force to oversee environmental matters as a major challenge faced by NEMA.
“We have always lacked a dedicated force, specifically focusing on manning the environment, like our brothers in the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and we ended up using the police environmental protection unit, whose numbers have also not been enough for the work intended,” he explained.
Under the provisions of the National Environment Management Act (Section 25), the newly established force called the Environment Protection Force, will serve as an independent entity dedicated to environmental protection. Similar to rangers in national parks and other protected areas, this force will enforce NEMA regulations and the Environment and Management Act.
Barirega revealed that the initial phase of the force will consist of 150 personnel, with recruitment ongoing until the force reaches 2,000 personnel. Additionally, the police and army may be called upon to provide reinforcement when necessary.
“We have already formed the structures for this force, and the recruitment is going on at NEMA, and the police we have been working with, will remain with us as well, and also the army will come in to help on big operations,” Barirega said.
Turning to World Environment Day, Barirega outlined NEMA’s focus on a 3Rs strategy to combat plastic pollution in Uganda. The strategy involves promoting the production of reusable plastics, encouraging recycling, and exploring repurposing options for plastic waste, such as manufacturing tiles and other items.
The Minister for Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris, commended the country’s progress in forest cover restoration. He noted a positive trend, with the forest cover increasing from 9.5% in 2015 to the current 13.3%, thanks to the efforts of the National Forestry Authority and private individuals engaging in tree planting initiatives.
Cheptoris highlighted the recovery of key wildlife species, including an increase in the mountain gorilla population from 292 individuals in 1995 to 459 presently. He also said that “most of the wildlife key species have been recovered, mountain gorillas, have increased from 292 individuals in 1995 to 459, the elephant population is also increasing, currently at more than 8000 from 1900 in 1995, and the giraffes are now at 1,650 from 153 in the same period,” he said.
In accordance with the National Environment Management Act, NEMA presented the State of the Environment report for the past two years during the event. The legislation mandates NEMA to provide an updated assessment of the country’s environmental status every two years.