Fellow Citizens and all people living in Uganda, from 2nd – 5th May, Uganda will host the African Great Lakes International Conference titled Conservation and Development in a Changing Climate. The Conference will take place at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda.
The Conference’s overall objective is to “bring together stakeholders to link science to solutions for conservation and sustainable development of the African Great Lakes.” Participants will range from regional lake authorities, scholars, policymakers, business leaders, scientists, and other decision-makers from across the region.
The Conference underpins the need to balance conservation and development if we are to address the issue of Climate change impacts, amidst population pressure, new technologies, evolving cultures and natural disasters. There is need to integrate into our thinking and decision making costs and benefit analysis as we promote development. We can no longer afford to remain complacent but must look at things in a holistic manner, because no one is exempt from disasters or impacts of Climate Change. Indeed the increasing floods and drought are an indication of the emerging changes.
Fellow Citizens: the African Great Lakes Region, covers an area of over 850,000 km2 and is remarkable for both its high level of biological diversity and the life-sustaining systems it maintains that benefit more than 50 million people. It is home to half of Africa’s freshwater fish species and thousands of endemic freshwater and terrestrial species. The seven major lake basins in the region are Lake Albert, Lake Edward, Lake Kivu, Lake Malawi/Nyasa/Niassa, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Turkana and Lake Victoria.
These lakes support diverse industries and provide ample investment opportunities in aquaculture, agriculture, hydropower generation, fishing, transportation, urban and industrial development, recreation, mining, oil exploitation, and tourism. Yet these values must be developed sustainably to secure their services in the long-term, and to reduce negative impacts on people and the environment.
However, some sections of our society continue to use them as they will and thus impact negatively on the lake resources. Among the visible threats is unsustainable fishing, habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, urban and industrial pollution, and sedimentation caused by deforestation and agriculture. These challenges are compounded by the increasing impacts of climate change.
It is for this reason that the Governments Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia; under the leadership of the African Great Lakes Conference Organizing Committee (AGL COC) thought it prudent to bring the plight of these Great Lakes to the International arena.
Fellow Citizens; hosting such a prestigious conference is not a small matter. It is a great opportunity to profile our efforts in promoting conservation efforts in the Greats Lakes in Uganda and those that are transboundary; after all we are endowed with three out of the seven large freshwater lakes, namely, Lake Albert, Lake Edward and Lake Victoria.
Secondly, it is anticipated that there will be increased stakeholder participation and awareness about the innumerable services these Great Lakes play in supporting peoples’ livelihood and economic development.
Building on strong Government support Uganda is working hard to reduce and reverse the threats to the lakes in our jurisdiction, and of course those that traverse our neighbouring borders. First and foremost Government of Uganda partners with Lake Management Authorities and Organisations to implement joint management interventions. Secondly, it is implementing lake management projects/programmes; and thirdly it is ensuring that institutional and legal frameworks for the management of these lakes are developed and strengthened as appropriate.
As we prepare for the Conference next week we look forward to the following benefits;
• Enhanced coordination and cooperation of stakeholders working on conservation and development of the African Great Lakes
• Strengthened capacities of lake management institutions on sustainable use of basin resources and knowledge exchange
• Dissemination and sharing of evidence-based information for implementation of policies and conservation actions
• Sharing of tools and approaches for ecosystem-based management in the African Great Lakes
Fellow citizens; the Great Lakes, as indicated above, are a source of livelihoods for millions of communities; yet at the same time they provide powerful engines for the continent’s development, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to national economies. Therefore, let me reiterate that the proper use and management of these lakes and their resources have a serious bearing on the country’s environment, economy and future, and therefore every effort has to be made to conserve them.
As I conclude, allow me to acknowledge the contributions of the different partners in ensuring the organisation and hosting of a very successful Conference. My profound gratitude goes to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and my staff in the Ministry of Water and Environment who have been at the helm of organising this Conference. Additional gratitude goes to the MacArthur Foundation, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Lake Tanganyika Authority; and all its Partners for their invaluable support.
I would now like to wish you all a very successful Conference.
For God and my country
Hon. Dr Mary Gorreti Kimono Kitutu
MINISTER OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT