Bugoma CFR is a tourism hub and a home to about 600 Chimpanzees,' contains the highest density of the Nahan's Francolin and Grey Parrot birds among other endangered bird species.
Civil society organizations under the Save Bugoma Campaign are demanding the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to reverse its decision on Bugoma Forest give away.
This comes at a time when NEMA has issued a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report authorizing Hoima Sugar limited to destroy over 21 square miles of Bogoma forest to plant sugarcane and other activities.
According to the ESIA Certificate issued by NEMA dated August 14, 2020, NEMA has permitted Hoima Sugar LTD to use 21 sq.miles out of the 22 Sq miles Hoima Sugar leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom at 3 billion shillings against the will of NFA which is the chief custodians of all Natural forests and against calls by Ugandans.
Addressing journalists in Kampala Gaster Kiyingyi, the team leader explained that in the ESIA certificate of approval, NEMA has tried to confuse the public that Hoima Sugar Ltd will plant sugarcane on 9.24 sq. miles, establish an urban Centre on 1.206 Sq. miles, establish an eco-tourism center on 1.97 sq. miles and restore a forest on 3.13 sq. miles, among other economic activities.
"But based on the way NEMA had facilitated the fraud and violated the laws of Uganda to issue the above certificate, no one should trust NEMA. The certificate of approval will facilitate Hoima Sugar to destroy Bugoma forest.
The conditions in the certificate are only intended to mislead the public. This is the same NEMA that gave a wrong permit to Lwera sand miners and later resulted into court awarding the degraders over UGX180 billion. Why should Ugandans trust NEMA?," he wondered.
He informed the public that the certificate of approval issued is simply sugarcoated, a well-crafted move smoothened by NEMA to legalize an illegal process to give away and destroy Bugoma forest by Hoima Sugar LTD.
"It is unfortunate that a government agency can engage in facilitating destruction of a forest amidst worsening impacts of climatic changes in and outside Uganda," he said.
He said that as citizens committed to promoting conservation of Bugoma and the environment generally, they will not allow to see the forest being taken up.
"We strongly object to the ESIA certificate of approval by NEMA to Hoima sugar Ltd to destroy any part of Bugoma, not even one square mile or an acre. Bugoma forest must be conserved and all degraded areas restored, "he stated.
He demands that the ESIA certificate of approval issued be revoked immediately.
"It is very clear that NEMA's ESIA certificate of approval is a product of fraud and it cannot be enforced in any democratic society.
We call upon all Ugandans to use their powers as enshrined in article 1 of the Constitution to Save Bugoma forest at all costs, "he said.
Dickens Kamugisha the chief executive African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) demanded that the Executive Director NEMA should immediately be interdicted and investigated for engaging and facilitating fraud to destroy Bugoma forest.
"Parliament should use its oversight powers to investigate the actions of NEMA, Hoima Sugar Ltd and ministry of lands for issuing land titles in forest reserves, approving ESIA reports in disregarding national laws and other illegal actions, "he stated.
He warns that If NEMA does not revoke the ESIA certificate of approval in the next 8 days from 23 August 2020, the CSOs shall organize massive public demonstrations in Kampala ,Kikube and in Hoima districts to express disappointment against NEMA and government to enable the citizens to take control of Bugoma forest to stop NEMA's fraud and Hoima Sugar Ltd's plans to destroy Bugoma forest.
When contacted the Executive Director of NEMA, Tom Okurut, about the claims, his known telephone contact could not be reached.
Importance of Bugoma.
Bugoma CFR is a tourism hub. It is home to about 600 Chimpanzees' and contains the highest density of the Nahan's Francolin and Grey Parrot birds among other endangered bird species.
It is a migratory corridor for large mammals such as chimps and Elephants connecting Budongo and Murchison Falls National Park from Queen Elizabeth National Park. It's a western arm of the rift Valley.
Bugoma is home to several rivers sources that recharge Lake Albert and the surrounding wetlands which act as the breeding grounds for the fish in L. Albert.