By Rajab Bwengye
Bugoma central forest reserve located in Hoima district and its dependent communities have been in crisis since August 3, 2016, when an illegal land title was curved out of the forest and a 99-year leasehold issued to Hoima Sugar limited by Bunyoro Kingdom to replace the virgin natural forest cover into Sugar cane grass.
Following the rampant deforestation threats, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) spearheading the struggle sued the degraders resulting in halting of the forest degradation attempts until final settlement of the issues at hand.
The case has dragged on since 2016 and many illegal attempts have continued to be engineered to reduce the vast forest cover to its former glory.
Hoima Sugar limited is targeting close to 6,000 hectares of forest cover conversion into sugarcane plantations, a fact that once allowed will render Bugoma forest approach a tipping point of ecological collapse.
Replacing the forest with sugar cane grass will accelerate food insecurity of the forest-dependent communities, worsen climate change disasters, negatively affect the tourism potential of the district and region and deplete the provisioning of international public goods derived from the forest (IPGS) derived from the forest.
The sugar plantation threats coupled with the threats that will come along with the oil roads planned to pass in the forest will not only lead to a humanitarian emergency but also trigger an environmental disaster.
NAPE is co-ordinating indigenous and international allies who hold the forest dearly to save it from degradation.
The global save Bugoma fraternity comprising of NAPE partners and friends have since mobilised more than 200,000 activists and their signatures opposed to the forest give away.
NAPE co-ordinating other civil society actors has since the start of June 2020 co-ordinated with National Forest Authority (NFA) to convene a meeting with the Minister of Water and Environment denouncing the ongoing threats to the forest and also warned the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) the consequences of approving an illegal EIA in a gazetted forest reserve.
NAPE also calls the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament to keep a watchful eye over ongoing threats to the forest and ensure the forest remains standing since the minister in a dialogue meeting with NAPE and other CSO partners July 16, 2020 promised to do everything possible to protect the forest.
NAPE representing the Bugoma forest-dependent communities, the local, national and international friends of Bugoma forest call on President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to prevail over these unfortunate
developments and stand by his promise of May 16, 2019 to protect Bugoma from the greedy corporates.
The writer works with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists