A scoping study of the Hydrological Systems for Lake Edward Basin- Bwindi Impenetrable and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, Southwestern Uganda
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The Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) is an interconnected chain of eleven protected areas (PAs) straddling the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with endemic and endangered flora and fauna. The GVL is well known for its mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). The lake Edward basin is located within the GVL and its environs receive lots of rainfall due to the forest cover of the protected areas therein. Despite this, water for local community use still remains a big challenge and is insufficient due to the uneven distribution of the water sources therein. Even with the water resources in the lake Edward Basin, the water for local people livelihood is threatened with pollutions and human livelihood activities. Deforestation on the hillsides of lake Edward for agriculture has resulted in extreme soil erosion and silting of rivers and lakes during heavy rainfalls. This was the basis of this study that was commissioned by GVTC to conduct a scoping study for the Lake Edward Hydrological basin in both Uganda. In order to achieve the above objective of the scoping study, we used rapid and adaptive hydrological assessments and socioeconomic assessments methods around the lake Edward basin. This was done through; Assessment of existing information and data related to water resources in the region, Field visits to the developed and undeveloped water sources, onsite assessment of water source conditions, assessment of watershed conditions through assessment of the major rivers draining into Lake Edward. Furthermore, we use Focused group discussions with local leaders, water committees and park managements, reviewed documents related to water management in the regions and also carried out Key informant interviews with water management specialist (water engineers, natural resource managers at the district. Study findings reveal that there is lack or no secondary data on water resources available at the local and district level. Where it is available the information is discrete and scanty. There is limited research on hydrological systems especially river hydrology in region. We found out that the Natural Resource and Environment offices in the region were inactive in their operations and that there was no specific water management plans as most district development plans do not prioritize and deeply pronounce on water and environmental issues. The preliminary hydrological assessment findings reveal that despite the numerous availability of water resources in the region, the quality of the water resources is very poor as a result of human agricultural practices, waste disposal ways, mining and related climate change effects. These have resulted in polluted rivers and lakes from siltation, soil erosion and sometime flooding. Other major challenges included; Population increase and poverty, degradation of most riverbanks attributed to agriculture and limited awareness and deficiencies in law enforcement of water management laws and policies. In conclusion, this study shows that there is dearth of hydrological systems information/ data missing in the region for understanding the watershed/hydrological systems of the lake Edward water basin. This information/data is important for the sustainable management of the watershed at both policy formulation and policy implementation level. This study proposes the following recommendations for a sustainable water management system in the region: • Need for an in-depth study on the hydrological assessment of L. Edward basin and research uptake • An urgent need for a harmonized approach to the exploitation of water resources at an integrated water shed management level. • A need for stringent policies/laws and their enforcements that aim at restoring the riverbanks for major rivers crossing through agricultural areas. • A need for other water resources such as rainwater harvesting facilities should be explored as an alternative water supply scheme to the local people. This could be coordinated and funded through GVTC with its partners in order to reduce pressure on the protected areas that might result into conflicts between PA managers and the local people. • A need for an action research and establishment of a regional database to create a sustainable inventory of the water regimes.
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