Gov't move to upgrade forests to national park status meets resistance
What you need to know:
- Ms Katusiime maintains Kalinzu and Maramagambo Central forest reserves were recommended to be accorded a higher protection status and thus be upgraded into National Park and integrated into Queen Elizabeth National Park so that the neighboring communities benefit more from these natural resources.
Residents in Bushenyi District have rejected the government's plan of annexing Kalinzu and Imaramagambo forests to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Government announced in January that it was planning to annex the forests to the nearest national parks with an aim of enhancing the protection status of Uganda’s networks of protected areas and other critical landscapes for wildlife conservation.
In January, the Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary, Ms Doreen Katusiime, directed Bushenyi District where part of Kalinzu forest falls, to cause special council sittings to debate the issue explaining that the government through the line ministry was reviewing the National Wildlife Protected Areas Systems Plan (2002) to conserve wildlife resources of Uganda in a manner that contributes to the sustainable development of the nation and the well-being of its people.
Unfortunately, Bushenyi District councilors deferred the proposal arguing that they needed to first consult the population on the matter before pronouncing themselves on it. The proposal has since then formed different lines of narratives with some in support and others against it.
While speaking to this publication on Thursday, Mr Ramsey Tobias, a resident of Kyamuhunga town council said that they are ganging against the plans by government to hand over the forest to Uganda Wildlife Authority because the move is going to have far reaching impact on communities living adjacent to the forest.
“The forest has been our source of herbal medicine and provides space for grazing our domestic animals. Many community members have long time leases and they have over time planted trees in the reserve. Turning this forest into a national park means all these activities will stop. This will affect the tea factories and the economy here because factories get wood fuel from the reserve,” said Mr Tobias
Ms Phionah Kyokusiima, the head of programs at Solidarity Uganda said that UWA has had a bad history of mistreating communities around protected areas causing suffering to the population.
“On several occasions, we have not had justice for the people in areas where UWA has been in charge and they have been mistreated. We have examples of atrocities in areas where UWA rangers have tortured people and they have not received justice. We wouldn’t want to see such happening here after this forest has been taken over by UWA,” she expressed
The Bushenyi Ddistrict chairperson, Mr Jafari Basajabalaba, told this publication that the district leadership has not yet decided on the matter due to a number of reasons including the mode of operation by UWA.
“The methods UWA use to handle communities disqualifies them from taking over the forest. That’s why as a district, we are still undecided. We want the status quo to be maintained. Personally, I am not in for the takeover,” Mr Basajabalaba told Daily Monitor
In the letter written to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism in January, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment where NFA falls Mr Alfred Okot Okidi said that his ministry had concerns about the approach used by the tourism ministry in changing the status of forests to national parks.
“This whole process from inception, including the assessments quoted above have happened without the knowledge and involvement of the Ministry of Water and Environment under whose mandate all national forest reserves fall,” Mr Okidi said in a letter dated 18th January 2023
He added that the process of upgrading the forests into national parks was inconsistent with the laid down procedures in the law.
However, Ms Katusiime maintains Kalinzu and Maramagambo Central forest reserves were recommended to be accorded a higher protection status and thus be upgraded into National Park and integrated into Queen Elizabeth National Park so that the neighboring communities benefit more from these natural resources.