In the recent years, planting of eucalyptus trees has developed rapidly in Buhweju district, south-western Uganda, where trees are planted in hills, plateaus, an even in wetlands The practice is mainly done by people, who buy land(because it is cheaper), plant eucalyptus and leave. The percentage of residents doing this remains low. Most of the people are doing the activity for economic benefits.
My concern now, is, from environmental conservation point of view, has anyone wondered what happens thereafter, or what effect eucalyptus trees have on the environment? Science has it that eucalyptus us one of the world’s fastest growing tree species, but the trees cause ecological problem, which should be solved.
Being one of the fast-growing tree species, eucalyptus absorbs a lot of water and nutrition from the soil in a short period. This leaves the soils loose and weak to support plant growth, and causes soil erosion and degradation since few or no plants can grow where eucalyptus has been grown.
According to science, a three year old eucalyptus tree drinks 20 liters of water every day. This means a 20 year old tree is likely to consume 200 liters of water per day. One doesn’t need rocket science to know that gradual consumption and absorption of water could leave nothing, but a disaster.
What is also not proper, people are planting eucalyptus trees near wetlands and water sources. This leaves those areas dry, resulting into water shortages and climate change.
In areas where eucalyptus trees have replaced the indigenous ones, food and shelter sources are lost. This greatly threatens the existence of birds and animals, because birds don’t like building their nests in trees with small leaves like eucalyptus. This also affects insects and animals. I don’t think even man would seek shelter under eucalyptus because eucalyptus trees don’t provide good shade.
I would advise that local governments in Buhweju and other districts put in place bylaws that guide the population on tree planting, this time by designing a plan on which trees to plant in different areas, considering the sustainability factor. To serve the intended purpose, these bylaws should be a must to all residents, so they (people) can have a sense of responsibility. This takes time, but can work.
May be as a reminder, local governments should also think of financing environmental protection and management activities in their areas of jurisdiction. This will help technical officers do a lot to save the planet from degradation.
Journalist and Environmental protection Advocate