Project description

Over the years, encroachment on Nakivubo wetland, a tropical and perennial wetland that connects the city of Kampala in Uganda to Lake Victoria at the Inner Murchison Bay, has reduced its filtration of the sewage that drains constantly from Kampala city into Murchison Bay – where drinking water for Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts is sourced. Nakivubo wetland is about 2.5 square kilometers.

According to a study by researchers at Makerere University, 56 percent of the original wetland had been modified, mainly due to industrial development and small-scale farming. As the swamp disappears, the city has been left in dire need of the former wetland’s primary ecosystem service: wastewater cleaning. The effects are also economic, in a country ranked the 25th poorest in the world by a 2017 study based on IMF data. At the Gaba Water Works Facility near the Nakivubo outlet, water treatment costs have increased fourfold over the past decade, a 2007 study based on data from the National Water and Sewerage Corporation found.

Wetland destruction in Uganda is not unique to Nakivubo. Citywide, the eight major wetlands in Kampala city declined from 18 percent to 9 percent of the city’s area between 2002 and 2010, a 2015 World Bank study found.

In this Swamp city project, investigators at InfoNile teamed up with water researchers at Makerere University to find answers to the following questions among several others:
• How is the modification of Nakivubo wetland affecting Kampala city?
• What is the effect of urbanization on Nakivubo wetland?
• How is the modification of Nakivubo wetland affecting the wastewater treatment services for Kampala city?
• Who is affected most by the modification of Nakivubo wetland?
Our message is that the way environmental science story is understood and represented (through drone journalism, innovative data visualizations and satellite imagery …) bears practical and political consequences in terms of who gets it, when and how.
Through this article we want to grab the attention of government organisations; civil society organisations; government ministries and policy makers focused on water resources; Nakivubo wetland users and water resources researchers among others to interest them in finding solutions to the continued degradation of this vital wetland.

What makes this project innovative?

“Swamp City” multimedia feature project told the story of the challenges of urban planning and wetland destruction in Kampala city, utilizing interactive maps, drone video reporting and satellite imagery showcasing change in the wetland over the years. This project, incorporated drone journalism, innovative data visualizations and satellite imagery to provide new perspectives on often difficult-to-communicate issue of environmental science.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

By offering a space of interaction between water scientists, journalists; wetland users and policy makers, this project facilitate research communication and dissemination with the goal of contributing to integrated water resources management.
At least four media houses in the region published this project which attracted millions of readers in eastern Africa region. The readership for this article has continued to soar and is still continuing.

Source and methodology

Basing on findings for the study done by Makerere university, investigators/journalists Fredrick Mugira and Annika McGinnis worked with the researchers that did this study to go back to the wetland and crosscheck their findings, do more investigations including interviews and further visualise them. We also worked with AfricanDRONE and Code for Africa in data visualisation and capturing drone images. we also engaged Google Earth to access Satellite Imagery of how the wetland was in 2002 and later in 2016

Technologies Used

To create and complete this project, we used the following:
• Shorthand
• MapBox
• CartoDB
• Google maps
• Digital Globe/Google Earth for satellite imagery
• Wordpress - JEO theme to create interactive maps
• Infogram to create charts
• Drones for video
• DSLR Cameras for photography and video
• Adobe Illustrator
• Photoshop

Project members

Story and Photographs by: Annika McGinnis and Fredrick Mugira
Drone Video: Chris Oriso
Data Visualizations: Fridah Oyaro


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