Minister asks Nema to reject proposal to sell Bugoma Forest

What you need to know:

Apart from Bugoma forest, NFA is embroiled in numerous cases where other forest reserves are under attack.
Other forests under attack include Zoka in West Nile, Mabira in Buikwe, Maruzi (Gulu), Mt Kei in Terego, Imaramagambo (Rukungiri) and Kasyohakitomi (Buhwezu).

The Minister of Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, has asked the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) not to approve the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report allowing Hoima Sugar to destroy more than 22 square miles of Bugoma Forest for sugarcane growing.
“It is madness to think that a forest reserve like Bugoma can be destroyed for sugarcane growing. I have told Hoima Sugar that it is madness to plant sugarcane on a forest land,” Mr Cheptoris said citing the meetings held with Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom as the management of the sugar company.

Mr Cheptoris made the remarks at a meeting with conservationists under the Save Bugoma Campaign at his office in Luzira, yesterday.
“I want to assure the public that we (government) are at the forefront of fighting for this forest. We shall do whatever is in our power so that we do not lose Bugoma Forest,” he added.
The minister’s remarks came after Hoima Sugar Limited submitted their ESIA to Nema for approval to clear 22sq miles of the forest reserve after the High Court allowed the destruction of the forest.

This comes at a time the National Forest Authority (NFA) is challenging a High Court order that gave away one of the country’s tropical forests for sugarcane growing.
Describing losing of court cases as unfortunate, the minister, pledged to facilitate the court processes and also directed that lawyers from the Attorney General and the civil society be allowed to reinforce the NFA team to fight for the forest reserve.
The NFA executive director, Mr Tom Okello, revealed that NFA is also battling two other cases in which individuals are claiming huge chunks of land with titles.
Mr Okello said they have letters which show that the King of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, Solomon Iguru Gafabusa, sold trees on the 22 square miles which was leased to Hoima Sugar in addition to another two square miles.

“As we talk, NFA is not in charge of 22 square miles and private security guards were deployed on the disputed land after the court orders,” he added.
Mr Dickens Kamugisha, the chief executive officer of Africa Institute for Energy Governance, asked the government to take action against errant officials who participated in the issuance of titles in the Bugoma forest reserve.
“If government appreciates that we need Bugoma Forest, we propose that Article 26 of the Constitution be invoked for compulsory acquisition of land such that the claimants are compensated and stringent terms be made that anyone found with titles issued in a protected area,” he said.