Manual removal of invasive water hyacinth worries environmentalists

Manual removal of invasive water hyacinth worries environmentalists
Mbarara Central Main Prison inmates join the campaign to uproot water hycinith from River Rwizi

Kampala, Uganda | URN | A row has erupted between the leaders of Isingiro and Mbarara districts in western Uganda and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) over a move to manually remove the invasive water hyacinth from River Rwizi.

Leaders from the two districts mobilized locals to use local tools to clean the river in a campaign dubbed ‘Save Rwizi, Save Life.’ According to Mbarara Deputy Resident District Commissioner Emmy Katera, the move is aimed at saving the river which is covered in the dangerous weed, affecting millions of people whose livelihood depends on the River Rwizi.

Kateera says that the area leaders and concerned locals moved in after realizing that NEMA was hesitant to act, yet all efforts to engage NEMA on the matter were fruitless.

But NEMA has halted the exercise on grounds that it is wrong and will most likely worsen the situation. NEMA southwestern Uganda coordinator Jeconious Musingwire says that the leaders should have first sought the guidance of the authority instead of rushing to execute work where they lack technical knowledge.

He says that the manual removal of water hyacinth is not recommended and very dangerous.

But Nyamitanga Division Chairperson Moses Karanzi Kajubi says the move to manually remove the water weed should be supported instead of being criticized. He says that they intend to do the cleaning of the river at least once a month, by pulling the water weed out of the water and cut it into pieces so that it dries up.

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Bright Muhumuza, an environment activist says that the manual removal of the weed spreads it further. He adds that there is special equipment that is used to remove the weed instead of the irresponsible removal using rudimentary means.

Kaberebere Town Council Chairperson Patrick Kajuba says that the initiative may be having good intentions which may, however, be spoilt by the mode of implementation.

Suzan Keishemeza, one of those in support of the manual removal faults the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for failing to act on the weed and instead, coming out to condemn locals for their intervention.