Investors in hospitality business in Kalangala District are in the spotlight over encroaching on Lutoboka Central Forest Reserve before Parliament approves its degazettement, Daily Monitor has established.
Lutoboka Forest Reserve measures 174 hectares (427.4 acres) and is located in Kalangala Town Council on Buggala Island.
A trip by Daily Monitor to the forest reserve on September 6 revealed that some beach owners have started encroaching on the forest, clearing trees on at least 75 acres to expand their boundaries.
Sources in Kalangala Town Council said the investors acquired forest eco-conservation licences from government, which allowed them to carry out ‘eco-friendly activities’ within the forest reserve.
Mr Daniel Mwanje, the chairperson of Kalangala Hotel and Beach Owners Association, on Tuesday said: “If they [investors] are cutting down trees, that is very bad. The responsible authorities should again guide them on how such developments can be executed, without necessarily hurting the ecosystem.”
Mr Rajab Ssemakula, the Kalangala District chairperson, said: “If they [investors] possess forest conservation licences as they claim, such licences don’t allow anyone to clear the entire forest.”
Degazetting the forest
For the last six years, leaders in Kalangala have been pushing for degazettement of Lutoboka Forest Reserve, but the matter has been dragging on in Parliament.
Recently, the district leaders said they were ready to provide 200 acres in exchange for 174 hectares of Lutoboka Forest Reserve to pave way for the development and expansion of Kalangala Town.
Leaders said the town lacks land for expansion of the district prison, a mortuary, and public cemetery, adding that these cannot be put in place without degazetting the forest.
Dr Keefa Kiwanuka, the outgoing chairperson of the natural resources committee of Parliament, said: “One of the committee members tabled that issue of degazzeting some forest reserves before Parliament, however, the decision by the committee was inconclusive since the line minister said it should either be tabled by the ministry or Cabinet.”
Mr Phillipson Mugumya, the National Forestry Authority sector manager for Kalangala District, said his team will soon inspect the depleted part of Lutoboka Forest Reserve and advise accordingly.
“We are aware of some people, who were given licenses to work with in the forest reserve, but the act of cutting down trees is not allowed, such people need to be guided,” he said.