"80% of the approximately 40 million people depending on forests is a lot"
Making cooking gas affordable will save the forests from being cut down for charcoal and firewood. This is because the level of deforestation in the country is increasing at an alarming rate. Currently, the smallest cooking gas cylinder goes for between sh55,000 to sh60,000.
This is according to the deputy executive director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Christine Echookit Akello. She was on Friday officiating at a dialogue to combat desertification, organised by the agriculture ministry under the Rio Conventions project and PELUM Uganda at Rider Hotel in Seeta.
Akello said that the increasing deforestation is also explained by the fact that the population is increasing and the dependence on charcoal has always been at almost 80%. She argues that 80% of the approximately 40 million people depending on forests is a lot.
"So the issue as a country is finding out whether it is sustainable to continue using charcoal for cooking or look for cheaper alternatives that are both good of the people and environment," she said.
Akello added that to be able to move from charcoal to gas for instance, gas has to be made affordable and that it must be spread across the country.
She noted that much as Uganda's gas reserves are quite limited, the country intends to produce gas when the development phase in the Albertine Graben starts and this gas will have to be tested to see its viability for cooking.
"But alongside that we also intend to import some gas from Tanzania since there is going to be a gas pipeline in addition to other imports of gas from other parts of the country, this will make available enough gas for all to use," added Akello.
How it works out
For the measure to be successful, Akello said that different sectors like the energy and environment ministries, NEMA and the agriculture ministry have to find out how much gas is needed for domestic consumption so as to make it easily available.
"We need to sit as sectors together with the ministries and policy makers to make a business case for migration from charcoal to gas. Through this discussion, we may propose tax rebates like removing or reducing taxes on gas and other sources of clean energy for the health of the people and conservation of the environment," she added.
She however noted that deforestation is not only due to charcoal but other uses such as timber for construction, but that charcoal takes the biggest percentage, adding that the migration to gas should be a priority.