Sunday March 20 2016

Government must save Nyimbwa forest

This week, Parliament raised the red flag over Nyimbwa Forest Reserve in Luweero District that could be no more after the district local council decided to parcel out the land to investors; ostensibly to turn the area into an industrial park.

The MPs demanded that the line minister explains the status of the forest and measures to preserve the forest. They also demanded to know from where the local council derived authority to give out gazette public forest land.
The case of Nyimbwa forest is no different from what has been happening to the other forests around the country.

According to a 2009 report by the National environment Management Authority (Nema), Uganda loses about 6,000 hectares of forests every 30 days and that if there is no rollback, Uganda will have no forest cover by 2050.

The report goes on to say that already 28 districts have lost their entire forest ecosystem while another 19 districts have forest cover lower than 1 per cent.

That was seven years ago and looking back, no serious action seems to have been undertaken to halt deforestation, meaning that the situation of the forest in the country today is likely much worse.

And the signs are there for everyone to see. In the last one month or so, the country has been under the throes of a terrible heat wave that has seen most areas register record high temperatures.

Ideally, the month of March is supposed to be very wet at the Equator where Uganda lies but this year, and a few preceding years, it has turned out to be one of the hottest with very little rainfall. If any Ugandans had any illusions about the reality of climate change, it is now all too apparent.

It is, therefore, important that as a country, we stop the talking and whining and do something about preserving our environment before it is too late.

Some of the immediate things we must do are to preserve whatever is left of the forest cover, plant new forests or restore degraded ones, and preserve the wetlands.

These are basic geography lessons all Ugandans who have gone to primary school have been taught.

Yet we continue to disregard them and abet the destruction of the environment principally for selfish and often unsustainable economic reasons.

Parliament’s action this week is good. Hopefully, the MPs will follow this up to the end. One forest saved is a future of the country saved.