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Environmentalists Petition Electorate over Anti-Bugoma politicians

By Agnes Nantambi

Added 22nd July 2020 08:13 PM

Environmentalists Petition Electorate over Anti-Bugoma politicians

The community and officials of NFA planting trees in Butambala to restore Mpanga Forest. (Photos by Agnes Nantambi)

ENVIRONMENT | CONSERVATION | POLITICS

Environmentalists have asked voters to shun politicians supporting the giveaway of Bugoma Central forest reserve (CFR) come, 2021 general elections.

The conservationists accuse politicians of being detractors of the environment and therefore, do not deserve any leadership position.

Dr Joshua Rukundo, the executive Director Chimpanzee trust revealed that Bugoma CFR is a tourism herb and home to over 600 Chimpanzees including endangered bird species notably the Nahan's Francolin.

"It lies at the center of the migratory corridor for large mammals such as chimps and elephants connecting Budongo and Murchison Falls National Park, from Queen Elizabeth," Rukundo said.

This was revealed during a webinar meeting organized by the Uganda Biodiversity fund where Dr Rukundo called for concrete action on Bugoma CFR, saying world life is greatly getting affected.

"We need a pro-Bugoma legal team which can review the different judgments lost as we continue to make noise on the formulation of an environmental court.

We produce a lot of evidence, but we continue to get judgments which are unfavorable to Bugoma CFR which is unfair," he stated.

Rukundo challenged the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), to consider providing the necessary technical support to enhance conservation.

"We must have a united voice through the media, and emphasize how world life is getting extinct," he said.

He gave an example of a child who was eaten by a chimpanzee saying it was a result of the giveaway of its habitat.

The chief executive AFIEGO Dickens Kamugisha, observed the need to remap the forest to ensure that the entire boundaries are clear.

 

He expressed concern over sugar factories getting titles in the forests noting that it's not sugar cane that is threatening conservation but lack of political will to protect the environment.

"We request stakeholders to take responsibility and ensure that no one makes a decision that threatens the environment. We should work towards ensuring that decisions undermining our environment are abolished," Kamugisha said.

He observed that since the oil discovery Bunyoro region, the rate of destruction of biodiversity is very high yet the government has the capacity to compensate people for the sake of saving the environment.

He said, "Any action which is causing more problems, we must rethink of stopping it immediately. We have to ensure that with or without courts, land titles, our forests have to be protected to enhance proper conservation.

Gaster Kiyinji, also an environmentalist said conservation should not be segregative but focus on all natural resources.

"In the forest sector, we lack the mechanism to demonstrate which makes no sense to the government. Uganda has got a poor public image characterized by illegal trade, corruption, embezzlement yet the government is dormant to listen because of the image.

He added that the National Forest Authority (NFA) is currently fighting the battle in isolation due to inadequate support from the Ministry of Water and Environment Forest Sector Support Department.

Bugoma Forest is a central forest for Bunyonro responsible for formation of Rain. It is a home to several river sources that recharge Lake Albert and the surrounding wetlands which act as the breeding grounds for the fish in L. Albert.

It is centrally located at the heart of the Albertine oil exploration where mining will soon start and it is expected that explosives and production flares would be absorbed by the forest.

If depleted according to Peter Babyenda a research fellow at the EfD Mak Centre, all the pollution will directly be released into the space unabated.

Facts about the Forest

The fight over Bugoma has pitted the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom, which maintains it is part of the king's ancestral land whereas NFA claims it is the rightful owner and possesses all the rights of management and usage.

The Kingdom has already parceled out the forest in question to Hoima Sugar Limited which intends to set up a sugarcane plantation on the 41,144 hectares.

The Kingdom leased the disputed 22 square mile piece of land to Hoima Sugar Limited, but NFA insisted it has the mandate over it under the provisions of the NFA and Tree Planting Act 2003.

Hoima Sugar Limited entered into a lease agreement with the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom on the 4th of August 2016 in consideration of a sum of shs3, 000,000,000bn.

Such instances have happened in Mabira forest and more recently Bugoma and Zoka in Moyo district.

Uganda's vision 2025 talks about a green Uganda but the loss of forest cover continues unabated.

Current statistics by the Ministry of Water and Environment put the degradation of forests nationally, at 200,000 hectares annually accounting to 2% of total forest cover per year.

Uganda will have no single forest cover by 2050 if degradation at this rate remains unchecked.

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