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Mr. President, spare Uganda’s forests!

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th December 2006 03:00 AM

SIR — This letter is addressed to President Yoweri Museveni. I am deeply upset at your government's plans to destroy much of what remains of Uganda’s rainforests.

SIR — This letter is addressed to President Yoweri Museveni. I am deeply upset at your government's plans to destroy much of what remains of Uganda’s rainforests.

I strongly hope that you will abandon plans to destroy 10,000 hectares on Lake Victoria's Bugala Island for oil palm, and 7,000 hectares, some one-third of Mabira Forest
Reserve, for sugarcane production.

Your government has no legal mandate to hand constitutionally- protected forest reserves to be destroyed by private companies.

As a global
citizen I am joining with many others protesting these plans, and parliament's and the National Forestry
Authority's failure to carry out their constitutional duty to stop these illegal projects.

Destroying Uganda's forests will have grave ecological consequences — threatening water catchments and
supplies, hundreds of rare species and sparking soil

Lake Victoria’s diminished water levels are due to past deforestation, which this proposed forest destruction will intensify, threatening water supplies and
hydroelectric energy generation. Further, they would remove a crucial buffer against pollution of Lake Victoria.

Loss of these forests and failure to restore forests where
they historically occurred will lead to greater climate change and water scarcity in your country, as well as a reduction in forest products that many depend upon for
firewood and home building materials.

The forests are worth much more intact than as plantations, as the Uganda Tourism Board reports eco-tourism generated some $300m for Uganda last year.

Cutting remaining rainforests to establish plantations will do little to develop Uganda’s industry — it will not address the “lack of factories, real estate, professional
services” to which you have referred — but it will come at tremendous costs to your nation and its people.

These rainforests provide vital ecosystem services such as water, air, soil and forest products that benefit your entire nation, and should not be so lightly sacrificed for marginal development benefits by a few.

These rainforests'
values are so immense that your government must challenge
the international community to compensate your country for their protection, on the basis of carbon sequestration and
biodiversity conservation.

The rule of law and your country’s future ecological
sustainability is at stake. Please permanently cancel
these projects, ensure your country’s remaining ancient forests are given greater protection against future ill-conceived destructive uses, and begin a major programme of rainforest regeneration where they historically occurred.

This is the path to sustainable development for your country. The world is watching and hoping for wise, forward thinking leadership. With grave concern,

Sofia Valle
United Kingdom

Ed: More than 500 people all over the world have sent a copy of this letter to The New Vision and copied it to the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, all MPs in Uganda, Ugandan Embassies and media houses

Mr. President, spare Uganda’s forests!

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