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Forestry chief resigns over Bugala

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th December 2006 03:00 AM

THE Executive Director of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Olav Bjella has resigned, citing a disagreement with the government over the allocation of more forest land to a private company for the cultivation of palm trees.

THE Executive Director of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Olav Bjella has resigned, citing a disagreement with the government over the allocation of more forest land to a private company for the cultivation of palm trees.

Gerald Tenywa

THE Executive Director of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Olav Bjella has resigned, citing a disagreement with the government over the allocation of more forest land to a private company for the cultivation of palm trees.

“It was unavoidable,” the Norwegian told The New Vision. “We have been locked in a disagreement with the government over granting a license to BIDCO.”

His resignation comes days after a meeting in which President Museveni told the environment minister and top forestry officials to expedite the allocation of more forest reserve land on Bugala Island in Kalangala district to BIDCO.

Bjella said Museveni advised them to choose between giving a license to BIDCO or resigning.

“Museveni is firm on this. He wants NFA to give a permit. If not, be sacked,” the Norwegian said.

He added that it is up to parliament to discuss and approve the change of land use. “We do not have the legal mandate to give a license,” said Bjella.

The outgoing Executive Director is concerned about the fate of the 506 forest reserves in Uganda. “There is a lot of pressure on forest reserves because encroachers are cutting down trees at will and we cannot evict them because of a directive of the President.”

Bjella has been replaced by the organisation’s human resource manager, Hope Rwaguma. He is the fourth person to resign at NFA. Earlier, the director of field operations, Stephen Nsita, the director of technical services, Isaac Kapalaga and the director corporate affairs, Edward Mupada, threw in the towel over the same issue. In October, the chairperson of the board, Dr. John Kaboggoza, was replaced by former lands minister, Baguma Isoke.

In a reaction, Baguma confirmed that the government had asked the Forestry Authority to find land for the cultivation of palm trees. He said the viability of palm oil production requires about 20,000 hectares. “It is a decision which was supported by FAO and the World Bank years ago,’’ Baguma stressed.

He said NFA would give advice on the course of action. “If they say degazette then that is the path we shall follow.’’

The Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) warned two weeks ago that a permit should not be given for changing the land use of a protected area.

“A permit is only given for activities like eco-tourism and tree planting, which do not destroy the forest reserve and protect the interest of the public,” said Godber Tumushabe, the ACODE chief.

Forestry chief resigns over Bugala

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