Landslide survivor Esther Nambuba, 35, local business owner coming from Naposhi.
Samuel Okiror — Cracks on the dormant volcano of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda continue to widen within the wake of last month’s landslides, sparking fears a similar tragedy may be imminent. nevertheless the land slated for relocation might be equally at risk, leaving survivors with distressing choices.
At least 46 people were killed along with more than 850 displaced when floodwaters triggered by a landslide washed away much of the town of Bukalasi along with surrounding villages within the district of Bududa on 11 October.
Exacerbated by climate change, deforestation, a growing population living off the land, along with years of government inaction, such disasters have become increasingly common in mountainous eastern Uganda. In March 2010, over 350 people died in landslides, followed by similar disasters in 2011 along with 2012.
For those around Bukalasi whose lives have been upended, along with for tens of thousands of residents considered at risk of future landslides, there is usually no easy solution: home has become hazardous, nevertheless the land the government has earmarked for relocation is usually shrouded in warnings along with controversy.
Esther Nambuba’s house, bar, along with restaurant were completely destroyed when heavy rains caused the Tsume River to burst its banks, sending water along with boulders rushing towards her village of Naposhi.
“I am here stranded. Where do I start a brand-new life coming from? All the plans along with investments I had were in This kind of place,” says the 35-year-old mother of 5. “I lost everything.”
Last month President Yoweri Museveni apologised for not having relocated people since previous landslide disasters, blaming local politicians along with vowing to make sure they acted quickly This kind of time around. An official statement said at-risk communities would likely “immediately” begin moving to a brand-new 2,868-acre plot marked out for them 60 kilometres to the north, within the neighbouring district of Bulambuli.
However, some local leaders have condemned the brand-new site, saying much of the idea lies in wetlands which are prone to flooding along with is usually just as risky as the land people are on right now.
“You can’t shift victims coming from a frying pan to a fire,” John Baptist Nambeshe, a county legislator in Bududa, told IRIN. “How can you relocate people coming from one disaster hotspot to another?”
Efforts to relocate people have within the past also been frustrated by local politicians wanting to keep voters in their districts along with by those who would likely rather stay near their fertile land on the slopes of the mountain.
“There have been long delays in resettlement of persons at risk of landslides because of two factors,” said Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s state minister for relief, disaster preparedness, along with refugees. “The people themselves were at first unwilling to be relocated, along with there were also senior politicians… who were mobilising the people not to accept relocation.”
Ecweru insisted the risk of flooding at Bulambuli is usually a temporary problem which can along with will be fixed. nevertheless there is usually also a dispute about who owns the land there along with local political leaders, like Nambeshe, are calling for relocation to approved centres within Bududa district instead.
“We are determined to fight for our land because nobody ever consulted us; OPM [Office of the Prime Minister] was duped,” Stephen Waisi, one of the Bulambuli land claimants told a daily online website last month. “Nobody should even bring people here for settlement before we are compensated; let the government take these people elsewhere.”
The villages of Naposhi, Wanjenuwa, along with Shilos were all busy trading hubs on the Tsume River before the disaster. They are right now covered with heaps of soil along with huge boulders which tumbled down the mountain. Residents counted many losses, including 144 houses washed away along with many businesses destroyed.
“This kind of place remains very dangerous,” Simon Mashipwe, 38, a resident of Shilos, told IRIN. “As the rains continue to pound, another disaster is usually likely to occur anytime.”
Like Mashipwe, Sylvia Nandutu, 41, wants to be moved somewhere safe as soon as possible. “This kind of is usually not once landslides are happening here,” said Nandutu. “Previously we were told to avoid staying up within the mountains along with we moved down the valleys. the idea’s the same disaster. We need to relocate coming from here.”
Bids to move vulnerable people have faced fierce resistance within the past. In 2010, the government resettled hundreds of Bududa landslide survivors to the district of Kiryandongo, about 400 kilometres away. nevertheless many returned, citing ancestral links along with the need for more fertile soil.
“The previous relocation attempts failed because people were taken very far,” said Lawrence Khisa, 57, a resident of Wanjenuwa along with father of 10. “Those who were taken to Kiryandongo came back because of unfavourable living conditions… Whatever you planted dried up. So we had to come back to our fertile soils along with favourable weather.”
Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates within the planet, with an average fertility rate of 5.4 children. As more people settle on the mountain, more trees are felled to make way for homes along with agriculture, creating mudslides along with flooding more common.
At least 67 landslides were recorded following heavy rains between May along with October within the Mount Elgon region, according to the government.
Climate change may be causing more flooding generally, nevertheless Mary Goretti Kitutu, a former environmentalist who is usually right now Uganda’s state minister for environment, said the “main driver” of landslide risk within the region is usually a growing population dependent on agriculture.
“The people who were hit by flash floods along with boulders had settled on the banks of the river. They had established trading centres, a school, along with market along the river bank, which is usually very dangerous,” said Kitutu. “Steep slopes along with river banks should not be used for settlement. People should be removed along with resettled somewhere else. Then plant trees on the slopes of the mountain to conserve environment to curb landslides.”
The Uganda Red Cross Society has launched an emergency appeal to support the Bududa victims with services, including temporary shelters along with medical assistance, along with to help train disaster responders along with volunteers to raise awareness about the effects of climate change.
Martin Owor, Uganda’s commissioner for disaster preparedness along with management, said the government had established strong links with local communities along the mountainside, distributing some 750 smart phones along with 150 megaphones to community leaders so they can raise the alarm more quickly when they spot the first signs of future landslides.
Under the government’s brand-new resettlement plan, Ecweru said more than 900 households (or the 6,300 people considered most at risk) will immediately be relocated coming from Bududa to Bulambuli; each household will be given building materials to construct a two-bedroom house.
coming from the next financial year, beginning in July 2019, the government will then relocate 10,000 people per year until the idea resettles the entire target population of 100,000. The resettlement process is usually required to last 10 years.
“All persons at risk will be resettled, along with the places they will have vacated will be planted with trees for environment protection along with eco-tourism,” Ecweru said, referring to at-risk areas near Mount Elgon national park which are well-liked with tourists.
nevertheless those living within the areas at risk of landslides remain concerned. While staying puts their lives in danger, moving could pose even higher risks.
Some want to go.
“I have a lot of fear along with trauma to continue staying in This kind of place,” said 34-year-old John Namutambo. “The government should expedite the process of relocation to Butembatye in Bulambuli. Even if they haven’t built for us, we shall start life within the tents.
“I better go there along with die with the waters, nevertheless not these big boulders.”
nevertheless others, like 40-year-old Fred Wesonga, who saw his house along with business “washed away within minutes”, say they can’t take another risk along with wonder why they can’t just be given money to purchase land somewhere they feel secure.
“Bulambuli is usually not safe,” said Wesonga. “Our leaders tell us the idea’s a wetland prone to flash floods. We also hear of cattle rustlers who sneak to kill people in which area… We appeal to the government to compensate us for the lost property so we can start a brand-new life.”