Land cover/use change, water quality and their implications on the health of Batwa community in Kigezi Highlands
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Increasing human population is exerting use pressure on land resources resulting in unsustainable land cover/use changes. These land cover/use changes particularly poor rural areas has implications for ecosystem and human health. In this study land use/cover changes and their implications to water quality and human health in the Kigezi highlands, particularly in the Batwa community were explored. The study focused on analysis of land-use/cover changes, assessment of water quality in relation to land cover/ use type, and the implications of water quality to the health of community members. Remote sensing and GIS techniques complemented with observation checklists were applied to quantify the extent of land cover/use changes. In addition, a cross-sectional survey to gather views from local respondents. Water quality parameters (i.e., pH, total dissolved solids, electrical conductivity, temperature and turbidity) were determined using a sense-ION and a turbid-meter respectively. Health implications of water quality were determined through review of OPD books at health centres and stakeholder consultation. Results reveal that land cover/use did not significantly change between 2012 and 2013. The existing land uses/covers include bush land (11.22%), tea plantation (6.41), forest (5.87), woodland (4.16), and wetland (3.82%) and built up (3.43%).It was also found that pH (65% of the samples) and turbidity (63% of the samples) were the most critical parameters affecting the quality of water while temperature (45% of the samples) was the least parameter affecting water quality. Overall, there were fewer samples (43% of the samples) which met the national water quality standards after carrying out water quality tests.Results for pH, TDS and temperature did not significantly differ across the different locations sampled (P>0.05) while turbidity significantly differed across the different locations (P<0.05). Generally, the samples tested in 2013 were less compliant compared to those tested in 2012 although the difference was not significant (P>0.05). There was no variation between land cover/use change and water quality (P>0.05). The most prevalent illnesses in the three communities were skin infections, eye infections, and symptomatic diarrhea indicative of the potential of water borne diseases. The status of water quality was found to influence the level of transmission of water borne illnesses in the communities (P<0.05). In conclusion, the landcover/ use types within the settlements have a bearing on the low quality of water being used by the communities. This low-quality waterhas implication for the health of the people probably highly contributing to the prevalence of water borne illnesses in the study area.Restoration of the land cover through reforestation, terracing, awareness creation about household sanitation and hygiene could contribute to the improvement of the health status of community members.