Kibaale — The Minister of Lands, Water and Environment, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, has ordered people settling in forest reserves and wetlands to vacate or face arrest.
He was speaking at the national celebrations of the International World Forestry, Water and Meteorological Day at the district headquarters last week.
"There has been severe encroachment on all major forest reserves while wetlands and swamps have been reclaimed for settlement, agriculture and other human economic activities," Otafiire said.
He said Mabira, Bugoma Imaramagambo and Muzizi forest reserves and Nakivubo Channel had been affected.
Otafiire said the government had secured forests as a strategy to eradicate poverty in Uganda by 2015.
"Forests habour rich economic goods and potential. They are used to influence rainfall formation, in extraction of timber, herbs for medicine, fruits, and also acting as catchment areas for tourism. They also provide building and construction materials," he said.
He urged Ugandans to sustainably exploit the forest potential to reduce poverty without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Otafiire ordered any idividual or firm that wants to cut trees to obtain a licence from forest departments.
He said officials should ensure that whoever wants to cut a tree plants three trees before cutting an existing one.