This morning, I addressed the "Sustainable Blue Economy" conference in Nairobi, Kenya. I first had reservations about this summit, fearing that it was another of cliche arrangements spearheaded by our external friends.
However on deep scrutiny, I noticed this is about our survival, linked with the Sustainable Development Goals. The linkage between our water resources and survival cannot be over-emphasized.
The greatest challenges to a sustainable blue economy are; soil erosion as a result of the large numbers of our population being engaged in rudimentary farming methods.
Pollution by industrial affluence driven by greed. This is manifested in the use of cheap and often times dangerous inputs with the sole objective of maximizing profit, even at the expense of the environment.
Population pressures on natural resources leading to issues such as overfishing, encroachment on wetlands and forests deforestation etc.
African governments also struggle to enforce some plans because of electioneering processes. How do you chase encroachers who are voters from a forest?
That said, Uganda is committed to tackling these challenges and we are undertaking the following to ensure a sustainable blue economy.
We are discouraging our people from cultivating on steep gradient areas to combat soil erosion and eventual silting of our rivers, and avert disasters like landslides.
We have started a war on poor fishing practices on our waters. For now, we are relying on rudimentary methods to patrol the waters but we shall advance with installation of surface radars to enable satellite monitoring.
We shall also require electronic registration of all vessels operating on our waters. This way, we shall know who is on the water and what they are doing. We must, for example ask, how many people should be fishing in a square kilometre?
Our government has also embarked on a campaign to protect vegetation at least 200 metres to the lake shores or 50 metres to the river banks. We are also convincing wetland encroachers to vacate while offering them a modest compensation.
Finally, Africa can only tackle these issues by pushing the industrialization agenda. We must look increasing electricity output and create jobs in industries. You will not stop forest encroachment for example by farmers if you do not offer them alternative employment.