At a time when Uganda’s forest cover is getting fast-depleted, it is strange and sad that elements within our society continue to cut down the residual trees in an attempt to satisfy their voracious greed.
Ironically, it is difficult to believe that the officers from the Environmental Protection Police Unit (EPPU), the entity which is charged with the responsibility to protect the environment, are accused of complicity in the illegal destruction of forests. See story, ‘Environment police behind illegal logging’ (Daily Monitor, September 23).
Uganda’s forest cover has been depleted to 8 per cent up from 24 per cent in 1990s. The loss is attributed to human encroachment for different activities, including agriculture and tree-cutting for timber and charcoal and other stakeholders argue that the continued depletion of Uganda’s natural forests and wetlands poses a major threat to the livelihoods of citizens, endangers the tourism sector, which is currently one of the biggest source of foreign exchange for the country.
Besides, the depletion of the forest cover in the country implies escalation of the effects of climate change with all the associated problems, including prolonged droughts, flooding, etc.
Floods destroy farmlands, crops, property, etc, all which lead to hunger. It also washes away roads and bridges. With drought, crops can barely germinate and grow, the consequence of which is food scarcity and in extreme cases, famine.
It is feared that if the rate of forest depletion in Uganda continues unabated, the country will certainly become water-stressed.
It is in the interest of circumventing such a scenario that the government, in 2011 considered it crucial to create an Environment Protection Police Unit.
Therefore, why would EPPU officers turn their back on their role of being the hunters to being the hunted? Envisage a scenario whereby rather than apprehend the notorious illegal timber and charcoal transporters and dealers, the EPPU officers instead provide them covert and overt cover with impunity – at a fee! And where is the National Forest Authority in all this? How did we get here?
Short of finding answers to these and more questions, reducing the fast rate of forest depletion in the country, will remain a tall order to our detriment.
Therefore, the time is now to reverse this very worrying trend. First, there should be a rigorous afforestation effort, starting with the most affected forest areas. Most important, there should be an overhaul in the EPPU as well as better equip and fund it. This should also apply to NFA.