23 districts lose forest cover

Jun 18, 2009

A total of 23 districts in Uganda have lost their forests, mainly in eastern and northern Uganda, according to the 2008 State of Environment Report, released yesterday.

By Anthony Bugembe
and Ibrahim Kasiita

A total of 23 districts in Uganda have lost their forests, mainly in eastern and northern Uganda, according to the 2008 State of Environment Report, released yesterday.

“The entire forest eco-system has disappeared in 23 districts. This means that about 1.2 million hectares of forest cover was lost between 1990 and 2003.

“If nothing is done to reverse the high rate of deforestation, the per capita forest area of Uganda will be zero by 2050,” warned Dr. Aryamanya-Mugisha, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Mugisha attributed the forest loss to the fast growing population, which has increased the pressure on land.

The report quoted United Nations projections which put Uganda’s population at 103 million in 2050. This is based on the assumption that Uganda’s fertility rates decline to 2.9% between 2045 and 2050, down from the current 6.7%.

He noted that the amount of land available per person is about 0.9 acres in central Uganda, 0.5 acres in eastern Uganda, 1.5 acres in northern Uganda and 1.1 acres in western Uganda.

The districts with depleted forest cover stretch from Iganga up to Kaabong and from Apac up to the Kenyan border.

The West-Nile districts of Moyo, Yumbe and Koboko are also badly affected. In central Uganda, the deforested districts are Lyantonde, Nakaseke, Kiruhura and and Sembabule.

The continued loss in forest cover is partly a result of an increase in the use of charcoal and firewood. About 78% of Ugandans use firewood for cooking.
It is also attributed to bush burning although the practice is illegal.

The report said most parts of the country are in flames in the months of January and February. Other factors are a growing demand for land for agriculture, residential areas and industries.

“The built-up area in Kampala and Wakiso districts has more than doubled, indicating the demand for building land in response to residential and business needs,” the report noted.

“Entebbe has also expanded dramatically while the suburbs of Kampala have joined with Wakiso and are spilling over into Mukono.”

It noted with concern recent developments which have seen the clearing of the buffer zones of forests and open spaces, as well as encroachment on the wetlands, in favour of unplanned settlements. This, the report added, leads to reduced water infiltration and causes floods, particularly in Kampala.

The State of the Environment report was launched alongside the atlas for Uganda’s changing environment as well as the environmental sensitivity atlas for the Albertine Graben.

The two atlases provide evidence of Uganda’s changing environment through satellite images and graphics.

Besides increased deforestation, NEMA found a considerable reduction of wetlands in central Uganda, which it attributes to the increase in residential areas and agriculture for both commercial and subsistence purposes.

The satellite images also showed high siltation of rivers like Kagera and Semliki in western Uganda.

This, along with overgrazing, the melting of ice on Mount Ruwenzori and the degradation of the water catchment areas, have led to a significant change in the course of the rivers.

The atlas for the Albertine region also raised environmental concerns in the area under oil exploration.

“Although environment impact assessments have been undertaken, and mitigation measures proposed, the current activities are already having impact on wildlife, the ecosystem and the human environment,” said the report.

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