The expansion of Kasese Airstrip: a threat to wildlife and communities in Queen Elizabeth National Park

by | 15 Jul 2023 | Members

Blog post contributed by our member CECIC (Center for Citizens Conserving Environment)

The serene and biodiverse Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda has long been a haven for a remarkable array of wildlife, boasting over 95 mammal species, about 10 species of primates, and approximately 2.500 African elephants. However, recent plans to expand the nearby Kasese Airstrip into an international airport have raised concerns about the potential impact on both the park’s wildlife and the communities residing in the area.

The Richness of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity, providing a home to an astonishing variety of species. From the majestic African elephant to the elusive tree-climbing lions, the park’s diverse ecosystem is a testament to the wonders of nature. Its sprawling savannahs, lush wetlands, and dense forests offer a habitat for numerous endangered and vulnerable species, including the chimpanzee, hippopotamus, and Rothschild’s giraffe.

The Threat of Airport Expansion

The proposed expansion of Kasese Airstrip into an international airport poses a significant threat to the delicate balance of the park’s ecosystem. The construction, noise, and increased human activity associated with the airport could disrupt the natural behavior and migration patterns of wildlife. The disturbance caused by aircraft operations may lead to increased stress levels among animals, affecting their reproductive patterns, foraging habits, and overall well-being. The potential loss of habitat and disruption of ecological corridors could also have long-term consequences for the park’s wildlife populations.

Displacement of Local Communities

Beyond the environmental concerns, the expansion of the airport raises significant challenges for the communities residing between the proposed site and Queen Elizabeth National Park. These communities have relied on farming, sand mining, and various other economic activities for their livelihoods for many years. The airport expansion may result in the displacement of these communities, forcing them to abandon their homes, farmlands, and traditional ways of life. This disruption could lead to a loss of cultural heritage and a severe impact on their ability to sustain themselves.

The Plight of Displaced Communities

The potential displacement of communities brings to light the need for fair compensation and support during the transition. These communities have a deep connection to the land, and their displacement would not only affect their economic well-being but also their social fabric. Adequate measures must be taken to ensure that they are provided with alternative livelihood opportunities, access to education, healthcare, and other basic services. It is crucial to involve the affected communities in the decision-making process and empower them to actively participate in shaping their future.

Striking a Balance

While economic development and infrastructure projects are essential for the progress of a nation, it is crucial to strike a balance between development and environmental conservation. The expansion of Kasese Airstrip into an international airport may offer economic benefits and improved connectivity, but it should not come at the expense of the park’s rich biodiversity and the well-being of local communities. It is imperative that environmental impact assessments and comprehensive mitigation plans are put in place to minimize the negative effects on wildlife and ensure the sustainable development of the region.

In conclusion, the expansion of Kasese Airstrip into an international airport has the potential to disrupt the delicate balance of Queen Elizabeth National Park’s ecosystem and displace the communities living in the area. As we navigate the challenges of development and conservation, it is crucial to prioritize the preservation of our natural heritage and the well-being of local communities. Striking a balance between economic progress and environmental sustainability is the key to ensuring a harmonious future for both wildlife and humans alike. Let us work together to find innovative solutions that protect our natural wonders while supporting the aspirations and livelihoods of the communities who call these areas home.