Tuesday February 13 2018

Protect the forest or the tree won’t have a home

Degraded.  Charcoal that has be burnt out of

Degraded. Charcoal that has be burnt out of trees inside Mabira Forest. PHOTO BY Sudhir Byaruhanga 

By EDITOR

The government is suspending harvesting and trade of the shea nut tree. The suspension is in line with Section 29 (3) of the National Forestry and Tree Planting, 2003.
The section reads, “the minister is the lead agency for regulating access to forest genetic resources and shall, for that purpose, collaborate with other lead agencies in accordance with this Act, other laws, conventions and protocols relating to the management or control of biological resources, including cross-border bio-diversity.”

Section 30 (1 & 2), which cater for species considered to be endangered seem like a more plausible explanation for the decision. But the details behind government decisions is a conversation for another day. Today, it is decisions like this in the spotlight.
While the suspension is commendable, given that it would mean protection of a tree species that environmentalists have said is at risk of extinction for years, it seems like miniscule step in what should be a giant leap. Several rare tree and plant species are in at risk around the country given all the reports of wetland and forest destruction.

This week, a joint investigation by NMG Uganda exposed the fact that trees are being cut down, in the dead of the night, in Mabira Forest.
This latest report of people encroaching on the forest seems more sinister because it does not seem like a case of residents gathering a little wood for cooking. What it looks like is an execution of a plan to destroy the forest, complete with permission from the powers that be to do so. If this is the case, it is an unfortunate turn of events given that the forestry authority has been praised in the past for preserving the forest.

In 2007, this newspaper reported that the government had restored at least 50 indigenous tree species in the central forest reserve.
This recent turn of events will not only reverse the good work, it will also destroy the environment. This statement has been repeated so many times that its gravity may have been lost. Reports of dried up wells, the extreme hot weather followed by flooding, the thick layer of what looks like smog over the Kampala skyline are some of the impacts of environmental destruction in Kampala.

Destroying the environment means crop yields become fewer either because floods wash away the crops or the heat dries them up. Either way, we have no food.
Destroying the environment means we don’t have trees to clean the air and so that film of smog-like air is what we’ll breathe in. It’s no wonder that respiratory problems are becoming common. The government should, therefore, look beyond specific tree species to the habitats in which these species flourish.

The issue: Forest depletion
Our view: Destroying the environment means crop yields become fewer either because floods wash away the crops or the heat dries them up. Either way, we have no food.

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