White Nile River Basin Exp. – Queen Elizabeth NP

Welcome to #6 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

Masurua Swamp

Woman collecting water amidst water hyacinth, marsh grass and papyrus in Masurua Swamp

Date: Thurs–Fri, 1–2 April 2010 /Entry 6
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Queen Elizabeth National Park

satellite image

Satellite photo of L. Edward and L. George

Our drive to the 488,000-acre Queen Elizabeth National Park will pass through Ishasha region, with its unusual tree-climbing lions. In shadow of Rwenzori Mtns, this park forms a saddle between the northeast shores of Lake Edward (the larger lake) and southwest shores of Lake George (the smaller lake). Its ecosystems include open savanna, rainforest, papyrus swamps, and crater lakes full of pink-backed flamingos. There are 100 mammal and 606 bird species here, as well as the Uganda kob. As well, this location has a reputation of having the rare occurrence of tusk-less female elephants. It will be interesting to learn what the possible causes of this genetic tendency may be – and discuss current status of poaching in Uganda’s national parks.

Egyptian geese

Egyptian geese

A boat trip on Kazinga Channel between the lakes will offer great “photo op’s” of hippo, fish eagles, buffalo, elephant and a wealth of bird life. Local fishermen come here in their reed boats from the village of Kazinga. They go out at night to avoid the hippos, which graze on land at night and spend the days in the water.

Within Queen Elizabeth NP, the Semliki River flows from L. Edward north to L. Albert demarcating the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, also part of the Nile River Basin. In some places the changing course of the Semliki River sparked confusion in 2009 over the location of the boundary. Due to the recent discovery of rich oil fields in this area, such boundary disputes between the two could lead to conflict.

From the field: Queen Elizabeth National Park, in East Africa’s Western Rift Valley, is a water-lover’s paradise. There are two shallow, but large lakes connected by a natural and wide channel with mountain ranges to the east and the west! Yet it is thought-provoking as far as protected area management in a country where tourism is the second largest foreign exchange earner. We have seen several issues first hand. The park has local villages within its boundaries. One of the park’s lakes allows local fishermen to haul their catches. There was a salt plant on the lake shore that only worked 1 year because engineers used metal pipes.

One of the greatest current threats within this lovely park is a limestone mine for cement production. While NWNL has not been not able to access this corner of the park; our Uganda partner, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), has produced a booklet explaining violated laws, risks and impacts concerning this commercial extraction. NAPE contends that this project disrupts migratory corridors of wildlife; has progressed without consultation with local stakeholders; and uses heavy machinery in a fragile ecosystem that is an internationally-designated RAMSAR site. Furthermore, the environmental impact assessment was approved without any public hearing.

One concern the limestone mining project raises is that the migratory corridor will be destroyed, forcing animals into areas where they will destroy peoples’ crops. This could result in the death of both humans and wildlife. Another concern is that the lack of legal compliance regarding approval of this mining operation will impact usage of other Ugandan natural resources held in trust for the people. Ugandan environmentalists are concerned that this precedence will influence the method of exploration of newly-found oil in this Albertine Rift of the White Nile River Basin.

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