According to the national population projections by Uganda Bureau of Statistics(UBOS) , Uganda’s population currently estimated at 38,823,100 million in 2018 will be 41,222,200 in 2020; with such a growth rate, it is needless to say the pressure on our natural capital is huge and will continue to grow.
With over 80% of Uganda’s population dependent on agriculture for food, employment and raw materials among others, the need to integrate natural accounts with the national accounts and planning can no longer be ignored.
Stakeholder representatives from the University of Oxford, Wildlife Conservation Society, Nature Uganda, National Planning Authority, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industries, National Environmental Management Authority, National Biodiversity Databank of Makerere University, East African Development Bank, and EIA consultants among others in a meeting held at Serena hotel on 7th March 2018 underscored the need for stock taking of natural capital and identifying their value and benefits to society, and using the no net loss or net positive impact approach to ensure wholesome economic development as well as natural capital conservation
As easy as this sounds, the value and benefits from natural capital cannot be fully quantified even when the environment and social impact assessment process is meticulously followed.
Dr. Simon Nampindo, the Country Director of Wildlife Society cited the infrastructural upgrades and proposed construction will have a high negative impact on key biodiversity areas and called upon decision makers in government to take into account mitigation measures that will reduce these impacts on our natural capital.
One of such infrastructural developments is the construction of the Uganda–Tanzania Crude Oil Pipeline (UTCOP) intended to transport crude oil from Uganda's oil fields in western Uganda all the way to the Port of Tanga, Tanzania on the Indian Ocean. The pipeline is expected pass through some sensitive ecosystems and high value conservation areas.
Victoria Griffiths, an Oxford PhD student, currently conducting research about the importance of considering social no net loss in development planning using the Kalagala offset with respect to the construction of Bujagali hydro power, Isimba projects in Jinja and Kayunga district respectively as a case studies, said local communities are displeased with the disregard of cultural sites and the locals’ beliefs and benefits during the planning process were non offsetable, regardless of an attempt to relocate the Bujagali [a.k.a Budhagali) spirits to another location
“Cultivation, rafting, fishing, brick making and papyrus harvesting for arts and crafts are some of the activities that continue to take a huge toll on the river Nile,” Julia added.
She said that although the wildlife, and national environment bills for Uganda have provisions for no net loss of biodiversity, there is still need for refinement to ensure they are consistent with the international standards and best practices such as the IFC, Business and Biodiversity Offset Program, Equator Principles, and IUCN guidelines to ensure the people’s use of land and their values are captured, well aware that there are other projects planned for the future.
Other participants concurred saying that the communities should be involved in decision making given that their wellbeing is dependent on it. They also proposed that equity and poverty alleviation should be incorporated into the social and biodiversity offsets citing particularly the proposed Kalagala offset implementation plan to remedy the loss of the water falls, cultural sites, tourism activities and the negative impact on Mabira central forest and its associated ecosystems, more so Lake Victoria, a key major source of water for central region and the fisheries industry depends on it.
The Internal Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at National Environment Management Authority, Fred Onyai called for investment in government, particularly capacity building to ensure that institutions responsible for national accounting such as Bank of Uganda and the Ministry Of Finance, Planning and Economic Development have the expertise needed to integrate natural capital into national accounting.
The meeting was intended to show how Natural Capital accounting can support decision-making to secure genuine sustainable development in Uganda by using present a Natural Capital account as demonstrated by a pilot infrastructure project case study in Uganda conducted by Julia Baker and professors at University of Oxford University, UK. It was also meant to gather views on possibilities for the establishment of the Uganda Natural Capital Forum to facilitate the process of institutionalizing natural capital accounting in Uganda.
Natural capital refers to trees, plants, animals and soils which provide ecosystem services such as capturing carbon from the atmosphere to guarantee quality air and mitigate local temperature rise; wetlands which filter pollution, store and clean water and reduce flooding incidences, hedgerows which are home to bees which pollinate crops among other benefits.