Who is abetting illegal tree cutting in Mabira?
What you need to know:
- After a series of probing, a source named some Buikwe District councillors in Najjembe Division, Lugazi Municipality, and some NFA staff as directly being involved in the illegal cutting of the trees in Mabira Forest
A week-long investigation into illegal cutting of trees in Mabira Forest has pointed to connivance between loggers and some Buikwe District councillors as well as staff of the National Forestry Authority (NFA).
The NFA has full management over the 300 square kilometres (74,000-acre) forest.
A visit to the forest last week uncovered several illegal routes created on both sides of the highway that lead to the areas where the illegal cutting of the trees is thriving.
Attempts by this reporter to follow one of the routes led him to a pile of trees located between 20 and 40 metres from the highway, a distance sources say is for easy accessibility by the trucks at night and boda boda riders during daytime.
After a series of probing, a source named some Buikwe District councillors in Najjembe Division, Lugazi Municipality, and some NFA staff as directly being involved in the illegal cutting of the trees in Mabira Forest.
“The councillors use the locals who go into the forest, cut down the trees and load them onto trucks, while others use motorcycles to transport them as small pieces where they are sold to schools and roadside vendors as firewood at Shs350,000 for small trucks and between Shs800,000 and Shs1m for bigger trucks. “Interestingly, even if Police impound a truck carrying trees from the forest, it is released unconditionally on ‘orders from above’. You will never miss to see boda boda riders carrying firewood or logs on the highway destined for Nakibizzi-Mbiko,” the source said last week.
But Mr John Micheal Odeke, the acting NFA publicist, said he needed to verify reports that some NFA staff were conniving with the district councillors to cut trees.
“Could you know that person who is saying that? As for me, I shall first have to find out and verify that information,” he said.
Mr Juma Wajja, the chairperson of Najjembe Division, Lugazi Municipality, said the illegal activities in the forest have brewed conflicts among the leadership in the area and district.
Mr Wajja, however, said he cannot single out any of the leaders involved in the cutting of the trees, but he is among those crusading the fight against illegal logging although his efforts are being misunderstood.
He said: “We had a meeting with the NFA to only allow the indigenous people to get firewood for domestic use but not for commercial purposes.”
Mr Jimmy Kanaabi, the Buikwe District chairperson, said: “Those are allegations but we gave a report to the District Security Committee headed by the Resident District Commissioner. The RDC or DISO is in a better position to give you more information.”
But when contacted, the RDC, Ms Hawa Ndege, said she was attending a meeting and promised to get back, which she hadn’t done by press time.
In 2017, a Joint Water and Environment Sector Review Report indicated that the country’s forest cover had dropped to 9 percent, representing a 3 percent drop in just two years. The report also revealed that thousands of hectares of Mabira forest had been degraded.