Battle To Recover Bugoma Forest Flagged Off: Activists To Storm NEMA Offices

CAN-U

CAN-U members during the presser at Human Rights In Kampala PHOTO/SHIFTMEDIA

BY PATRICK JARAMOGI

KAMPALA, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA|The battle to recover Bugoma Forest has been flagged off by climate activists.

National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) will regret why it ever cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to proceed and grow sugarcane in 21.42 sqm2 of land in the middle of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. The activists have threatened to mobilise the youth to storm NEMA offices and petition the Court of Last Resort (President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni).

Addressing the Media at the Human Rights House in Kampala on Tuesday, John Mary Odoy the Board Chairperson Climate Action Network (CAN) Uganda said NEMA has to explain why it issued an Environmental Impact Assessment certificate to Hoima Sugar clearing it to carry out activities of sugarcane growing in a natural forest.

Climate Action Network-Uganda was formed as a country network of Climate Action Network International (CAN-I) to forge collaboration and networking among the national relevant stakeholders to tackle climate change issues. CAN-U brings aboard over 200 Non-Governmental Organisatoons working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

“We are talking of 41, 000 hectares of natural forest cover. This means loss to over 200 species of animals, increased temperatures, increased food insecurity, frequent floods, and loss of natural habitats to hundreds of animals as well as revenue from tourists,” said Odoy.

He said Uganda made a commitment to address the climate change concerns including reducing emissions by 22% and keeping the temperature low. “One of the contributors to this achievement is increased tree coverage,” he said.

He said CAN-U noted with dismay what Hon. Justice Wilson Musalu Musene and Fredrick Egonda- Ntende made regarding rulings in court that cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to occupy a natural forest reserve. “We call upon NEMA to retract its impact assessment and allow the land to revert to the natural forest. The country stands to benefit better and greater from the natural forest than from sugarcane growing,” he said.

Spitting fire, Proscovia Nayonjo Vickman, the head of Climate Desk at the Buganda Kingdom said: “I will address the impunity and arrogance that NEMA uses. Buganda Kingdom that I represent is over 900 years, and the kingdom has the pangoline, one of our cultural heritages that resides in Bugoma Central Forest. We cant seat back and watch as this heritage is laid to ruins.”

She added: “I call upon President Museveni to look at the beauty that Uganda has, that has made it to be called the pearl of Africa that is being laid to waste.”

Vickman said they will mobilise the youth countrywide to storm NEMA accompanied by the Environmental Police. “We are currently suffering wearing facemasks because of the dirty environment, yet someone somewhere wants to erode our fresh air further.” “And they (NEMA) will explain when and how they met during this Covid-19 restriction to issue that EIA certificate to Hoima Sugar.”

Vickman said just like the climate activists stopped the intended sale of Mabira, and other forests, so will Bugoma Forest.

Counsel Hussein Kato, the Executive Director Earth Rights Initiative (ERI) urged parliamentarians to join them in the fight to save Bugoma Forest. “We are heading towards elections, I appeal to the youth and Ugandans, any MP who doesn’t come out to denounce the act of taking away Bugoma should not be voted,” said Hussein.

He called for the scrapping of powers of NEMA Executive Director that empowers him to issue Environmental Impact Assessment certificates. The presser was supported by the Dan Church Aid (DCA)

Earlier in the week 10 Civil Society Organizations threatened to drag NEMA to court for what they call the fraudulent way in which the organization went about approving the destruction of Bugoma Forest reserve for sugarcane growing.

The CSOs allege that NEMA violated several provisions of the law in approving the Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) that was conducted by Hoima Sugar Limited (HSL).

The Minister of Water and Environment Sam Cheptoris is highly opposed to the giveaway of Bugoma Forest.

NEMA Responds

National Environmental Management Authority has however come out to described allegations that it sold Bugoma Forest to Hoima Sugar Limited as misleading.

It a statement, NEMA said National Forestry Authority (NFA) jointly sued the Omukama of Bunyoro (who leased the land to Hoima Sugar), Hoima Sugar, and Uganda Land Commission but lost the case in a judgment made by Ho. Justice Wilson Musalu Musene on April 25, 2019.

NFA appealed Musalu’s ruling but again lost out in a judgement made by Justice Egonda-Ntende on December 3 2019.

“As you are aware, 1995 environmental law puts all natural resources in the care of Government for benefit of greater majority. For persons and entities that held titles before 1995, Government would have to acquire their interest or compensate them in order to protect the natural resource,” noted NEMA’s statement.

 

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