By David Martin Aliker
Today Gulu which will soon turn into a city is celebrating for the first time World Environment Day.
CEED Uganda organized a community dialogue with support from GIZ in partnership with Gulu District Local Government, Ker Kwaro Acholi, Advance Africa,Gulu University and Afrigreen Sustain.
The theme of the dialogue is: Fight Air Pollution to Protect Human Health and Environment.
A few days ago, great pictures of a green Gulu captured the attention of the nation.
Social media was awash with praises and complements for Gulu’s leadership. But how prepared is the district to keep Gulu Green and it’s zero tolerance to its air pollution? How can Gulu engage its community to promote and protect its environment in a sustainable manner in view of the prevailing large scale tree cutting for commercial purpose?
According to World Health Organization (WHO) Ugandans are more likely to die from air pollution than those in Tanzania, Rwanda, and twice as likely as those in Kenya.
Uganda lacks real-time, sufficient and publicly accessible air quality monitoring network. Scarcity of reliable data and air pollution exposure information is a major issue in Uganda.
Air pollution in Uganda is driven by rapid urbanization and population growth in urban areas.
Uganda’s dirty air is characterized by smoke from car exhaust, industry, residential trash burning, road dust, and soot from indoor biomass-fuelled cookstoves for cooking.
Air pollution in Uganda has reached worrying levels and exposes people to health risks.
The number of respiratory tract infections has soared in the recent past – a warning that air pollution is rapidly becoming a serious environmental threat.
Several studies have linked mounting respiratory tract infections such as asthma and chronic bronchitis to air pollution.
The effects can be extremely serious. Research shows a connection between air pollution and lung cancer, and suggests it may contribute to childhood mortality.
Gulu District is currently one of the leading districts in the country’s urbanization process with a high influx of internal migration.
Gulu District is already working on an ordinance to manage its environment in a very sustainable way. Ker Kwaro Acholi in partnership with Gulu District Local Government is commendably working on this ordinance, it’s challenges not withstanding. The involvement and participation of the community remains a major challenge for the community to own up to this idea.
The Program Director of Ceed Uganda, Benard Loum speaking at this event on behalf of the commitment of civil society made a pronouncement that they commit to ensuring that one million tress are planted every planting season.
Just like other cities around the world, Gulu must ban the most polluting cars from entering city centers as its zero-emission zones and regulate its urban transport system. It must also promote the use of environmentally friendly cooking stoves and abolish random residential trash burning in the city.
As we celebrate World Environment Day, Gulu must move from talking to action. There is need to involve the cultural institutions and grassroots organizations on how to promote, protect and restore the environment.
The Blogger is an Author and member of Gulu Writers Club