Special Feature by Banabasi Kamusime
Tourism in Kisoro district faces a huge threat from the amount of plastic waste piling up along the streets of Kisoro Municipality and other areas neighboring the national parks of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), as was observed during July 31st 2021, International day of a Ranger.
- Game rangers and support staff during a clean-up exercise in Rubuguri town council
The event, which is celebrated globally every year is aimed at recognizing the efforts of the rangers who work in National Parks across the world who put their lives at risk when protecting animals from wrong human elements.
The rangers are often injured and sometimes killed when they encounter hostile Poachers and sometimes dangerous wild animals.
To mark this year’s event, the Rangers of Kisoro district decided to participate in a clean-up exercise with emphasis on cleaning Non- degradable materials like Plastics and Polythene bags which are a hazard to the environment.
The activity which was well coordinated saw rangers from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park working within Kisoro Municipality while Rangers of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park took parts of Rushaga trading center, Rubuguri town council, Nkuringo town council and Nyabaremura trading center in Bukimbiri County.
Plastic Waste Overwhelms the Rangers
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Rangers, who were smartly dressed in their digital Camouflage, were flagged off from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) town office, by the in- charge of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Senior Warden Richard Muhabwe who said the International day of the ranger is instrumental in recognizing the role of the rangers who put their lives at risk every day to conserve nature.
Muhabwe noted that Rangers are like other people who need to be recognized and respected for their sacrifice while executing their duties.
While conducting the clean-up exercise, Muhabwe explained that Kisoro Municipality is the face of Kisoro district and everyone who visits the town judges the quality of people from the outlook of the town.
“We need to do better because the town is filled with so much waste that could easily be managed if people simply paid attention to their surrounding”, Muhabwe said
Community Conservation Warden Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Aulea Kyarimpa Tumwebaze said, “to whom it may concern” attitude among the locals of Kisoro is the reason the once beautiful town is now going to waste.
Tumwebaze who has been in the conservation industry for close to 20 years, said non- degradable materials like plastic bottles, kaveera are so harmful to the environment and visitors who come to the district.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, where Gold meets Silver is home to the endangered Mountain Gorilla as well as the Golden Monkey.
It is best known for its activities that include gorilla tracking, Mountain hiking among others.
Gorilla Highland Coffee speaks out on Conservation and Coffee
The President of Gorilla Highlands Coffee Richard Rugayampunzi said his organization that aims at adding value to the Coffee chain in Kisoro and Rubanda districts said he decided to join the Rangers day celebrations to emphasis the importance of conservation.
Rugayampunzi noted that the organization currently has over 3,500 farmers adding that as much as Coffee exports are important to earning livelihoods as well as revenue for the country, if a community is lacking in sanitation and hygiene, then development cannot be sustainable.
“We spent an entire hour cleaning the drainage between Stanbic Bank Kisoro and DFCU bank because the amount of plastic bottles and Kaveera was too much. People of Kisoro I believe that we can do better,” Rugayampunzi said.
Municipal Authorities Speak out
It was almost two hours into the activity and no one from the Municipality had showed up to participate.
We bumped into the Senior Assistant town clerk for central division Angello Mfitundinda who said coordination had been poor but he was greatly pleased by the work of the Rangers who had set an example of keeping the town clean.
Mfitundinda remembered one time, back in 2015 when Kisoro Municipality was selected as one of the cleanest towns in the country.
“We are ashamed to say that our town has really fallen from grace however as the municipal authorities, we have a plan to engage public private partners to help us manage the rubbish in the town more effectively.
According to sources, the Municipal authorities spend close to 8 million every month in garbage collection and disposal which is too costly for a growing municipality.
So what are Degradable and Non- Degradable Materials?
Biodegradable waste or Degradable can be broken down into simpler, harmless substances by living organisms. These can include pilings of raw food, while Non-biodegradable waste cannot be degraded or broken down into simpler substances by living organisms. These include Plastics and Kaveera.
Vomuhabura also reached out to other sectors to find out how the clean- up exercise went.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP)
Located in Bukimbiri County, BINP Southern Sector is best known as the lead foreign exchange earner for Uganda because of the numerous known Mountain Gorilla groups in the entire world, which currently stand at 50.
Among these groups, 8 have been successfully habituated in Rushaga Southern Sector while others are still undergoing the habituation process.
vomuhabura has learnt that the habituated groups include: Nshongi, Bweza, Kahungye, Mishaya, Kutu,Bikingyi, Mucunguzi and Busingye.
During the Cleanup exercise, the BINP Senior Warden In charge Ronald Tindyebwa said the exercise was aimed at bridging the gap between the rangers and the community.
Among the areas cleaned include:
- Rushaga trading center
- Rubuguri town council
- Nyabaremura trading center
- Rubuguri HC IV
Tindyebwa commended the public for always cooperating with the Park rangers. He advised the rangers to always act professionally while executing their duties.
“In case you are faced with a challenge of uncontrollable civilians in the park, maybe poachers, desist from using your firearm directly, instead choose to shoot in the air to prevent loss of life”, Tindyebwa said
Tindyebwa also commended the support staff including porters and local leaders who have ensured that Tourism in BINP moves on smoothly over the years.
The Warden in- Charge of Community Conservation in Nkuringo Southern Sector Lavynah Mbambu Marule said the cleanup exercise was part of their efforts to join the rest of the rangers in the country to show solidarity and support.
According to Mbambu, the exercise took place in Nkuringo town council and Green hill Health center.
Gerald Katungyi, a ranger of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and resident of Kahurire village, Nteko Parish, Nkuringo town council said he always loved to be a ranger since he was a little child.
After completing his Bachelors in Education, he joined teaching as a Geography teacher which he did for two years until he quit to join Uganda Wildlife Authority as a Ranger.
He has been doing his job for over 10 years now.
“I simply adore the job of being a ranger because I love nature and conservation”, Katungyi said
Joseph Ntibiringirwa, a ranger also attached to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park said his experience in the park has been bitter sweet because he once encountered a Mountain Gorilla while on duty, that attacked him and nearly ended his life. He also noted that every day is not guaranteed because of the pending threat from Rebels from unknown groups who often open fire and force the rangers to respond.
“I was once attacked by a wild Mountain Gorilla which injured my right leg severely forcing me to take leave for more than 5 years but my passion for conservation forced me back”, Ntibiringirwa noted