Uganda: Overview of president’s forest protection & destruction efforts

Two years ago, President Yoweri Museveni backed a proposal by the  Mehta Group of companies to take over part of Mabira Forest for a  sugarcane plantation. This sparked off protests from  environmentalists, who criticized the move as one which would cause  negative ecological and social implications.

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Museveni also issued an executive order three years ago, stopping environmental institutions from evicting encroachers from forest
reserves and wetlands. However, the President is credited for  elevating the conservation status of Kibale, Mt. Elgon, Rwenzori and Bwindi forest reserves into national parks in the 1980s.

He recently resolved to protect lakeshore forests. “There used to be a forest
around Lake Victoria. When there is surface run off and there is no forest, all the soil goes into the lake. If there is a belt of undergrowth, it acts as a natural filter. We should act firm and say, nobody should cut this forest,” he said. And last week Museveni rejected a proposal to construct a youth centre in the 4.27 hectare Banda forest reserve.

“I have learnt that you have identified land for the National Youth Centre in the Banda-Kyambogo area, near Nabinsusa Girls School. I understand it belongs to the National Forestry Authority (NFA),” said Museveni in a letter of February 14, addressed to the gender ministry. “We are trying to preserve the forests, so the idea of degazetting the reserve is not acceptable.”

The President  said: “I request you to identify land elsewhere. It does not have to be near the city.” He explained that the reserve was good for research and as a tree nursery. The NFA public relations manager, Moses Watasa, said: “We are happy about it. We need support from the President, not only in Banda, but also in other gazetted areas that are faced with

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BIDCO encroaches on Ssesse forestMarch 9th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

BIDCO, a private company growing palm trees in the Lake Victoria islands of Ssesse, has reclaimed over 100 hectares of Gala forest reserve in Bugala, Kalangala district despite a recent presidential directive to protect lakeshore forests around Uganda’s biggest lake to avoid silting.

At a recent press conference, President Yoweri Museveni asked district authorities to be firm in the conservation of forests around the lake.

“When there is surface run-off and there is no forest, all the soil goes into the lake. There used to be a forest reserve around Lake Victoria.

“If there is a belt of trees with undergrowth, those act as natural filters. We should stand firm and say, nobody should cut this forest,” the President said.

In 1998, the Government entered into an agreement in which BIDCO got 10,000 hectares of land on Bugala Island to plant palm trees.

The palms, now in their fourth year, will be ready for harvesting in 2010 and processed at the Jinja refinery to produce oil. About 8,000 hectares have been planted on Bugala.

Part of the 10,000 hectares extends into Gala forest, where BIDCO has opened roads and was felling trees to grow more palms before they were stopped by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

The Bugala NFA sector manager, Dennis Ssebugwawo, on February 3 stopped the expansion, saying BIDCO was eating into the protected forest.

He demanded?that the company secures approval from the National Environment Management Authority and Parliament before axing the forest.

In the same letter of February 3, Ssebugwawo alerted the NFA director of natural forests, Hudson Andrua, of the encroachment. “At this point, they have constructed a 0.4km road inside the central forest reserve, mapping off approximately 116 hectares of the forest.”

A copy of the lease certificate issued by the Uganda Land Commission on July 13, 2004 indicated that Oil Palm Uganda Ltd was offered the land for 99 years. The lease hold title covers 3,439 hectares. Gala is about 825 hectares.

BIDCO spokesman Vincent Adipa said: “I have given a copy of the land title to NFA to check with the lands ministry to establish whether we are wrong. If we are wrong, the situation can be rectified.”

The Uganda land commission secretary, Balaam Mubbala, declined to provide details. He said the NFA should contest in case part of the Bidco land lies in a forest reserve.

BIDCO has had running battles with conservationists over Bugala forests since the 1990s. As a result of protests by civil society organisations, BIDCO dropped interest in having five forests, including Gala, degazetted. The others are Banga, Namatembe, Towa and Kubanda.

Dennis SsebugwawoNovember 23rd, 2009 at 6:23 am

All efforts to protect the forests in Uganda should be suported by every national concerned of the future of this country

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