Reports that Uganda could lose all its forest cover by 2050, should the cutting down of trees in forest reserves go unchecked, are sobering. Hopefully, this should galvanise the stakeholders at all levels to quickly do something lest we bequeath wastelands to future generations.
According to reports, Uganda’s total forest cover in 1990 was 5 million hectares but by 2005 it had dropped to 3.5 million hectares – a stunning 30 per cent loss. Considering that there has been more pressure on forest resources over the last 10 years arising from the rapidly growing population whose consumption of fuel wood as well as building materials to feed urbanisation, anything close to a million hectares may have been lost, bringing the remaining forest cover to less than half of what it was in 1990.
Yet we have not reached this level because we did not know that we could end up here; we reached this point precisely because we have ignored the warnings and have not matched our talk with actions. We must now draw the line and demand and enforce through local civil authorities the planting of trees at a household level across the country. There should also be stricter monitoring of public forest reserves and all degraded areas must be replanted and encroachers punished severely.
But alongside these measures, government must find and popularise alternative sources of fuel and construction materials. The starting point could be the removal of all taxes on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG cooking gas) as well as on cooking equipment that use gas. This will take away the urban dwellers from using charcoal which is one of the reasons trees are being felled in the countryside. In the longer term, government should expedite the exploitation of our natural gas reserves recently discovered alongside oil in the Albertine Grabben.
As for construction materials, especially roofing materials, we should consider and promote the use of steel. It might be expensive in the short term but in will save our environment in the long term. Yes, it will not be easy but it can be done, and the country will restore the green it has been so famous for.