19 June 2006

Uganda: Forest Encroachment Leading to Water Scarcity - NFA Official

Wakiso — THE government's Water for Production programme will soon be declared unfeasible due to the increasing forest encroachment, Mr Steve Nsita, a senior forester with the National Forestry Authority (NFA), has said.

Speaking at a workshop for the law enforcement partnership in Wakiso on Wednesday, Nsita said the programme would not succeed unless natural regulators and reservoirs of water flow are sustained.

The Water for Production programme, which is aimed at ensuring high water productivity, is line with the Poverty Eradication Action Plan.

Nsita, who is also NFA's Albertine Region Coordinator, said with the increasing forest encroachment, "There has been catastrophic ecological impact."

"All forest reserves that occupy over one million hectares serve the important functions of protecting biodiversity, water catchments, riverbanks, lake shores and stabilisation of steep slopes," he said. The NFA Executive Director, Mr Olav Bjella, said there was increased pressure on forest resources by encroachers.

He said they had been challenged on how to enforce the law in reserves. "Thousands of local communities have clashed with us yet it is our task to improve the management of these reserves. We need partnership support to manage the reserves sustainably," he said.

Nsita said destruction of forest reserves would affect the cattle corridor stretching from Rakai, through Mbarara, Masaka, Sembabule, Mubende, Kiboga and Luweero districts. He said the corridor would be rendered unviable for cattle grazing and agriculture.

"Over 1.3 million people in Mubende, Kiboga and Kibaale districts depend on the water caught by the forests in the Mubende- Kiboga hills," he said.

"The forests in these hills and valleys ensure that boreholes, wells and dams in the area are constantly refilled." Nsita said water is scarce in the districts of Kiboga and Mubende.

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