All Swamped Out

Swamps are great for wildlife, but it gives home to one critter no one wants.

This area of northern Uganda is full of swamps. They flood the outskirts of town forming a vast, flat area that's rich in wildlife. The government protects these wetlands by allowing no development and minimal use. People fish, fill up water containers for non-consumable purposes, and sometimes wash cars and bicycles. The swamps feed into tributaries that flow to the Nile River, which skirts through this area on its longest river journey in the world from Lake Victoria to Egypt.

I've spent some time thinking about the swamps because everyone else here is so aware of them. They blame the swamps for the invading mosquitoes, but seem to accept them in the way they accept the many anthills that pock their land. You could pave over them but they would just come back.

How different from America's experience with wetlands, which have been eliminated at an alarming rate in the name of all-mighty development. In America, a developer can trade one acre of wetland for another like a pair of socks. During the Great Malaria Eradication Campaign in the 1950s, the U.S. drained lots of wetlands as part of its strategy to permanently rid the country of this terrible disease. Massive DDT spraying and screens on windows also helped. We now live in a world free of malaria in the United States.

But what about other countries? Clearly the methods used in the United States are no longer considered tolerable from an environmental standpoint. Yet countries like Uganda are clamoring for a solution to a disease that kills 320 people a day, mostly young children.

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