Recently, the parliamentary committee on climate change in a bid to intensify the fight against climate change made several recommendations.
The recommendations include the promotion of tree plantations, encouragement of ago-forestry practices, and training and equipping the environmental protection police force among others.
However, an important and most powerful and dominant influence that can be used to change the world, environmental education, seems to have been forgotten by the lawmakers.
Without environmental education, it makes implementation of the other recommendations difficult and also frustrates a sustainable environmental management program once citizens are not equally empowered with the rightful knowledge regarding environmental protection.
We are responsible for how we shape our environment and creating awareness about the harmful effects of environmental damage can help us build a safe and secure future for the next generation.
Although Article 39 of our constitution provides for a clean and healthy environment for all, we must identify our responsibility of letting everyone know what is required of them to attain that provision which in return may help us utilize our resources more efficiently and without harming our environment.
Managing the environment requires investment in the local community for two powerful reasons:
1) Local activities affect the quality of the local environment. For instance, recently NEMA has embarked on evicting wetland encroaches in Lubigi wetland because their settlement or activities in this fragile ecosystem is frustrating it from performing its duties such as controlling flood, water purification and acting as a water reservoir.
However, this move was received with mixed reactions from the local community basically due to a lack of knowledge on the importance of a wetland. Similar cases are seen in forests, riverbeds, banning of polythene bags, importation of old cars etc.
2). Community members have a common interest in protecting and improving their community’s quality of life. Based on this, promoting environmental education to the local community level will promote sustainable environmental management through local decision-making and voluntary compliance with regulations set by the authorities.
The idea of community-based education is not new, in the past, it was applied more commonly to issues of community economic development, for example, Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO), and now Parish Development Model (PDM), youth empowerment, agriculture through cooperatives, health in Gulu city under Mapenduzi Foundation.
Promoting such in the environmental sector may as well gather more mass towards natural resources conservation, waste management, water resources management, pollution control, environmental health and safety, climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
In conclusion, much as the government pushes for the restoration of the damaged environmental system, this goal cannot be accomplished until professionals can collaborate confidently and completely with local people in both villages and urban dwellings.
This shall draw attention to several needs among which includes ensuring that efforts by the government have an obvious connection to the community, emphasising the link between the local activities and a quality environment, ensure that environmental protection is relevant to people’s lives.
It has been proven that community members can work together to make decisions about what they want their community to be like.
This offers a foundation for a new understanding of how environmental education can affect decision-making and help conserve the environment and natural resources using the bottom-to-top action approach. Thus, the reason why the government and agencies need to educate the citizens about the need for environmental management.
The author is an environmental scientist & president of Acholi Students Union