Graduate School
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Dr John Isunju

Home country: Uganda

PANGeA partner: Makerere University

Year of enrolment: 2013

Department: Geography and environmental studies

Supervisor: Dr Jaco Kemp

Co-Supervisor: Prof Christopher Garimoi Orach, Makerere University

Dissertation title: Spatiotemporal analysis of encroachment on wetlands: Hazards, vulnerability and adaptations in Kampala city, Uganda


Abstract: Wetlands provide vital ecosystem services including water purification, flood control and climate moderation, which enhance environmental quality, promote public health and contribute to risk reduction. The biggest threat to wetlands is posed by human activities that transform wetlands, often for short-term consumptive uses. Population pressure, urbanization and industrial developments, among other factors, have resulted in severe degradation of wetlands. In the face of increased climate variability, several hazards continue to emerge, affecting the vulnerable sectors of society, especially the poor. This study sought to quantify and map the extents and spatiotemporal dynamics of human activities in wetlands, taking a case of Nakivubo wetland that drains Kampala city’s wastewater to Lake Victoria; assess the range of hazards, perceived vulnerabilities and associated factors among wetland communities, and assess the benefits and opportunities informal wetland communities in Kampala Uganda derive from their location in the wetland and how they adapt to minimise vulnerability to hazards such as floods and disease vectors. In order to achieve the study objectives, a mix of methods were used. These included GIS and Remote sensing techniques for analysis of very high resolution aerial photos and satellite imagery (captured in 2002, 2010 and 2014), a survey of 551 households, four focus group discussions among wetland communities and five key informant interviews with stakeholders. Analysis of land cover in Nakivubo wetland showed a 62% loss of wetland vegetation between 2002 and 2014, which is mostly attributed to crop cultivation. Results from the survey showed floods and waterlogging as the principal hazards; however, secondary effects of floods and waterlogging such as disease vectors and diseases affect more people than the floods. Tenants were more likely to be exposed to floods, but less likely to prefer to adapt, and to perceive themselves able to afford adaptation than landlords/homeowners, and households that spend more than US$ 80 per month were less likely than households that spend less to be exposed to floods. Households that had been exposed to floods before were more likely to perceive themselves as vulnerable. Free water from spring wells and cheaper rental units topped the benefits associated with location while the main benefit associated with the wetland itself is that it supports crop farming. However, cultivation in the buffer wetland vegetation makes it unstable to anchor to the substrate, implying that it will likely be calved away by receding lake waves as evidenced by the 2014 data. With barely no wetland vegetation buffer around the lake, the heavily polluted wastewater streams will further deteriorate the quality of lake water. Furthermore, with increased human activities in the wetland, exposure to flooding and pollution will likely have more impact on the health and livelihoods of vulnerable communities. There is a need for coordinated adaptation strategies that involve all stakeholders, and a multi-faceted approach such as ecosystem-based adaptation needs to be implemented; possibly through zoning out the wetland and restricting certain activities to specific zones so as to enhance equitable utilisation of wetland resources without compromising their ecosystem services and benefits.

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