24 August 2006

Uganda: Stop De-Gazetting Forests, Govt Told

Kampala — LEGISLATORS on the natural resources committee have recommended that the Government stops de-gazetting forests.

Committee chairperson Emmanuel Ddombo (Butaleja) yesterday said, "The Government should not degazette any forest until a comprehensive investigation on the previous degazetted land is evaluated.

"When Namanve forest reserve was degazetted, the Government was supposed to get alternative land for it. But to date there has been no alternative and no evaluation has been made," he said.

President Yoweri Museveni recently issued a directive to the ministry of lands to consider Mehta Group's proposal to change the land use of one-third of Mabira forest into a sugarcane plantation.

The president wants environmental studies that will pave way for changing the land use of over 7,000 hectares of Mabira, which is one of the remaining sanctuaries of rare species of flora and fauna.

In a draft report to parliament on the National Forest Authority (NFA), the MPs said there was lot of redundant land the government could use without encroaching on forest reserves.

Ddombo said, "The Government should consider acquiring the vast land in eastern and northern Uganda, particularly in Teso and on Maruzi ranch to diversify the economy of other regions, other than destroying the forest."

The committee said sustainable management and conservation of forests was a key challenge for the NFA.

"Forest encroachment is widespread and needs to be addressed. It has been a source of unrest in the country and discouragement to investors," the committee observed.

They said the demand for a change of the Central Forest Reserve to other land use grows everyday.

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