15 September 2005

Uganda: BIDCO Gets Bugala Island Forest Land

Kampala — PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has directed that four of the forest reserves on Bugala Island in Kalangala be used to cultivate palm trees.

This follows a recent meeting during which BIDCO, a palm oil company, complained to Museveni that the pieces of land that they had been offered on the mainland had sandy soil and were unsuitable for growing palm trees due to poor rainfall.

Museveni consequently ordered the Prime Minister, Apolo Nsibambi, to implement the directive, according to a letter dated August 5.

Nsibambi, agriculture state minister Kibirige Sebunya and the BIDCO investors resolved that: "Central forest reserves on the island of Kalangala, namely Mugoye, Banya, Nkoma and Towa, be availed for palm oil plantations."

Last month, it was decided that the National Environment Manage-ment Authority (NEMA) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) undertake an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

However, the NFA has opposed the change of land use of the protected areas, saying earlier studies had shown that the reserves were ecologically sensitive areas.

"Forest reserves were considered prior to the establishment of the palm project, but were ruled out as unsuitable due to their environmental and biodiversity values," said Olav Bjella, the NFA chief.

BIDCO fronted a proposal about three years ago to degazette five of the forest reserves on Bugala, but the conservation partners put pressure on the Government to maintain the reserves, which have an overwhelming potential to support eco-tourism.

BIDCO has so far received 6,519 hectares of land on Bugala and has cleared 4,500 hectares in the past year.

They were promised 10,000 hectares by the Government.

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