NEMA proposes tax for forest management

Mar 28, 2019

The proposal is that every Ugandan should be taxed sh50 every year to support government efforts to re-grow the lost forest cover

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is proposing a carbon tax on every Ugandan as a way of getting back the lost forest cover in the country.

The proposal, if accepted and implemented by the government, will ensure that all the money collected is used to plant more trees to avert the adverse effects of climate change in the country like prolonged drought, floods and landslides.

The ministry of water and environment revealed last year that Uganda's forest cover has reduced from 24% in 1990 to now 8%. It also revealed that the country loses 100,000 every year yet little is being done to save the dwindling forest cover.

On Tuesday, during a stakeholder meeting held at the NEMA offices in Kampala, Dr. Tom Okurut, the Authority's head, explained that Ugandans and trees enjoy a symbiotic relationship whereby the trees consume the carbon people produce and gives back oxygen.

He noted that in order for this relationship to last beyond posterity, every person needs to give back to the forests in monetary terms.

He proposed that every Ugandan should be taxed sh50 every year to support government efforts to re-grow the lost forest cover.

"Nature is the base of our economy but we are not putting back enough money to protect this base yet our activities are threatening it and we are already seeing the negative effects of this," he said.

He said that man's activities such as deforestation and human encroachment on wetlands, which are water catchments, have led to the reduction of water in the country yet the demand for water is increasing daily due to industrialization and population increase.

Okurut noted that they are currently drafting the tax proposal and they will present it before the National Forestry Authority and other relevant government ministries for approval.

"Once government approves, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development will work out the modalities on how it will be imposed on Ugandans," he said.

However, he noted that a different fund will have to be created for the tax such that it does not go to the consolidated fund.

If this proposal is approved, Uganda will join European countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland who already have the tax.

Christine Akello, the NEMA deputy Executive Director said that adequate financing of the natural resource management will ensure that what is got out of the biodiversity is ploughed back in equal measures.

She said that targeted efforts should be put in place to rebuild the balance of the ecosystem to make it self-regenerating and in turn benefit the communities.

She also said that the government needs to strengthen institutional capacities to explore topics like digital sequencing and gene editing such that Uganda is able to benefit from its products

The meeting was geared towards coming up with key biodiversity issues in Uganda which will be shared during a consultation meeting that will be held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. This follows the adoption of the Post 2020 global biodiversity framework, during the fourteenth conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in November 2018.

Francis Ogwal, the Natural resource manager NEMA explained that the framework is aimed at protecting the biodiversity to make it favourable for human survival.

He said the targets that will be developed under the framework will aim at taking actions to stop negative attitudes towards the environment

"By 2050 we should be living in harmony with nature," he said.

During the meeting, Okurut noted that Ugandans are spending a lot of money destroying the biodiversity and they are now reaping through the prolonged dry season.

He advised stakeholders to focus the discussions on stopping activities that endanger nature such as poaching, deforestation, indiscriminate fishing and logging.

"Nature is our biggest bank we have. Any attempt to loot it will lead to its collapse. If we don't deal with the issues of biodiversity now then we are heading to extinction," he said.

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