Mixed reactions over charcoal ban in Gulu

NFA officials watch a truck being loaded with charcoal in Paibona Sub-county, Gulu District in September 2018. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • In an interview, Gulu District chairperson Christopher Opiyo Ateker said the Ministry of Water and Environment did not consult the local government before issuing the ban and that the document lacked action points.

A recent ban on production and sale of charcoal and timber in Gulu District has drawn  mixed reactions among leaders across Acholi Sub-region.

Whereas some leaders say the ban should be extended to all districts across the region, others say it does not hold water since it lacks action points.

In an interview, Gulu District chairperson Christopher Opiyo Ateker said the Ministry of Water and Environment did not consult the local government before issuing the ban and that the document lacked action points.

“That is not how we do things, many ministries have issued bans in the district here in the past, for example, the Agriculture ministry on animal trade due to disease outbreaks but they first sit down with us and agree on how it will be implemented or it fails,” Mr Opiyo said on Monday.

He said the document did not detail the role of respective stakeholders and did not spell out what to do with charcoal that crosses from other districts through Gulu.

Police role

Mr David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa river regional police spokesperson, also said the letter did not specify the role of the Force in implementing the ban.

“When the letter comes and it is in a block and you have not told the police what to do and what areas they should enforce, it becomes very difficult to implement. We want to be guided in what areas to enforce, it should have come with comprehensive guidelines so that it gives us a clear picture of how to enforce it,” he said.

In a January 11 letter addressed to the Gulu CAO, the Environment ministry ordered the district to suspend the issuance of all forms of licences for forest produce movement.

In the letter, the ministry also ordered for withdrawal of all forest produce permit books issued to Gulu District.

Mr Patrick Komakech, the Patiko Sub-county chairperson, said the ban does not have clear penalties for the culprits.

Despite the ban taking immediate effect on January 11, Mr Komakech claims that several charcoal trucks still leave the district destined for central Uganda with documents issued from the district, a claim disputed by the latter.

Mr Christopher Omara, the Nwoya RDC, wants the ban extended to his district on grounds that the commercial charcoal trade has left the district with a huge burden to counter deforestation.

Mr Joseph Otim, the National Forestry Authority sector manager, said for the ban to bear fruit, environmental monitoring committees at both district and local level needs to be activated.

Background

The ban comes at a time Gulu District has lost the vast majority of its 590,000 hectares of tree cover to illegal logging and charcoal burning. According to the Global Forest Watch, the district lost 988 hectares to these activities in 2021 alone.

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