Great Lakes traders count losses as floods cut off Uganda road
A week after more than 20 people were killed by floods and mudslides in Southwestern Uganda, River Katonga flooded and cut off the Kampala-Masaka Highway, a part of the Northern Corridor trade route to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The flooding caused a traffic gridlock that stretched 20km, according to eyewitnesses.
“Due to the severe flooding at Katonga and following advice from Uganda police, we urge motorists from Kampala to Masaka to divert and use the Mpigi-Kanoni-Maddu-Ssembabule-Masaka-Kampala routeas we allow water levels to subside,” Uganda National Roads Authority said in a tweet.
The alternative route is longer, and motorists would have to incur more costs in fuel while public transport fares are expected to increase.
It is the first time the bridge at Katonga has been cut off in more than 50 years, according to Achilles Byaruhanga, executive director of Nature Uganda, who attributed the flooding to continued destruction of the river ecosystem.
“People have been encroaching on the swamps around the river. Much of the wetland has been destroyed by people who have been mining sand. Others have been clearing it for cropland,” Byaruhanga said.
Swamps act as water reservoirs that mitigate floods when it rains heavily. Designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, the Katonga swamp is a catchment area for River Katonga and Lake Victoria.
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Environmentalists raised the red flag over the creation of rice fields in the area a couple of years ago, saying this would hurt the area’s ecosystem.
In a recent post on Twitter, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni emphasised the need to observe environmental requirements to avoid weather disasters.
“There should be no buildings or gardens 50 metres from the riverbanks, 200 metres from lakeshores, and no buildings on hills with a gradient greater than 30 degrees,” the president tweeted.
Experts have predicted that the Great Lakes region will experience natural disasters in coming years, including floods, droughts and heat waves. For now, the region is expected to experience higher-than-average rainfall until June.