Climate change and environmental activists are seeking justice and accountability for Bugoma forest from the relevant authorities in Uganda.
Addressing a joint press conference today in Kampala environmental activists led by John Mary Odoi state that the give away of Bugoma forest sited on 21.4 square miles in the albertine region is a shame to National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and call for the reverse of the approval.
NEMA on the 14th of this month issued a license to Hoima sugar limited to start cutting down forest to pave way for sugar cane planting.
In a statement released by NEMA yesterday, the authority referred to the judgment made on the 25th April 2019 where Hon. Wilson Musalu Musene dismissed the case in which National Forest Authority (NFA) had jointly sued Omukama of Bunyoro kitara, Hoima sugar limited and Uganda land commission. In his judgment, he indicated that Bunyoro kingdom acquired free hold interest and legally leased land to Hoima sugar limited which NFA appealed in the high court ruling but lost the case as per the judgement made by justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, on December 3, 2019.
With such actions, climate change and environment activists in Uganda under climate change action network Uganda (CAN-U) express great concerns over the information that NEMA sold off 21.4 sq miles (5579 hectares) of Bugoma central forest reserve to Hoima sugar limited something environmentalists consider very ashaming and disturbing.
Hussein Kato Muhinda, the executive director earth and rights initiative sights that they are considering dragging NEMA to court seeking a reversal to their act of selling the forest as well as trimming its powers of being the supreme in protecting Uganda’s natural resources and carrying the final mantle on decision to give them away.
Hussein accuses NEMA of over misusing its power as enshrined in the constitution as per article 39 of the 1995 constitution of Uganda.
Giving away Bugoma forest to Hoima sugar factory limited is adding on to the already given away forests like Zika, Mabira among other forests around the country contributing to nearly 15% loss of the country’s forest cover since 1990.
Forest covered 24% of uganda’s total land area in 1990 and by 2015 it had shrunk to 9%.
Bugoma which is 41,144 hectares, is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine rift valley known for preserving wildlife migratory corridors.
However the continued give away of forests among other natural resources continues to pause great threat to Uganda‘s environment and other cultural heritages in the country including loss of biodiversity leading to extinction of 260 species of trees, loss of habitat for animals which is likely to see 23 species of animals including over 500 chimpanzees and 225 birds losing their homes.
Further this will see an increase in temperatures leading to cases of food insecurity, intermittent rainfall, and frequent floods, landslides, soil erosion, loss of source of medicine among others.
It should be noted that Uganda made a committement to address climate change concerns including reducing emissions by 22% and keeping the temperatures low. One of the contributors to the achievement of these ambitions is to increase tree coverage in order to have carbon gains and one key focus activity in the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPAs) is community tree planting.
Still, the global agenda for climate change, sustainable development goals, United Nations framework convention for climate change and Uganda’s national legal and policy framework regards forest and tree coverage as key interventions in addressing climate change concerns.