KAMPALA, Uganda

Uganda is endowed with hot springs called Kitagata, believed to have natural healing powers.

The springs in the Sheema district of western Uganda have two streams: Mulago named after Uganda’s biggest referral hospital due to its healing powers, and Ekyomugabe which was used by King of Ankore.

The springs formed because of water heating from the ground, emerged through the Earth’s crust and have been traditionally important in the area for generations.

People have bathed in the hot springs to treat skin diseases, stomach and rheumatic disorders. According to residents, they were discovered in 1904 by a hunter. The springs had sections of warm water for bathing and natural boiling water, where people prepared tea and boiled eggs.

Unfortunately, the treasured resource is slowly dying. The water used to warm above 98 °C (208 °F) but is now lower. Former crystal clear waters are clogged and they no longer flash to the nearby swamp because of a blockade by a nearby stream. According to residents, the blockade happened following massive floods from the River Sebbanga.

“Shortly after the floods, the pools and seeps on hot springs reduced their temperatures. While we hoped this would be only temporary, the situation remain the same,” said Kitagata resident Mwijukye Sam.

Residents blame the government for neglecting the treasured resource, saying it failed to provide excavators to open blocked waterways to prevent rain water from flooding the springs. They said the longer the springs remain blockaded, the less likely waters will return to hot temperatures.

The springs are managed by the government. A proposal to privatize the springs was rejected. Deputy Mayor of Sheema Lukia Nakaliisa told Anadolu Agency that the district is aware of the blockade and awaiting funding to procure equipment.

Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Lilly Ajarova said developing Kitagata hot springs is on the agenda, pending government funding.

Hot springs have been used for medicinal purposes because of their biological characteristics and microorganisms.

Dr. Horace Mayengo says hot springs water has therapeutic effects on treating a number of diseases.

“Hot springs are a rich source of sulphur, a mineral present in every cell of our body used to make collagen, which keeps our skin smooth and healthy. This explains the healing potential of hot springs in treating skin irritations and infections such as rashes and eczema. They are also a source of magnesium that can help to protect against cardiovascular diseases and lower blood pressure,” said Mayengo.

Medical Lab Scientist Silence Zuriat said there are chlorides present in hot springs which help maintain electrolyte balance and the potential for hydrogen in body fluids are essential for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach that aids in protein digestion. She said inhaling mineral water vapors can be effective in treating asthma, sinus problems, allergies and other respiratory problems facilitating breathing.

In view of the uniqueness of hot water springs, it is helpful for the Ugandan government to prioritize developing the Kitagata hot springs, or privatize it because it would have a tremendous impact on the development of the local community and boost domestic tourism.

Direct benefits include jobs creation and income generation because it comes with new roles, such as tour guides, retail outlets, transportation services, hotel staff, local artifacts, handicraft items among others.

It would also be a reason to conserve the natural environment through increased awareness and stimulate participation of locals in environmental protection.

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