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Conservationists reject govt's Bugoma forest boundary opening report

Bugoma forest reserve

Bugoma forest reserve

Environmental conservationists under the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) have rejected the recently released forest’s boundary opening report by the ministry of Lands.

The conservationists say the report does not provide a definitive finding on whether Hoima Sugar Limited encroached on Bugoma Central Forest Reserve land or not. SBFC consists of the forest host communities, civil society organizations and private sector entities whose main objective is to defend Bugoma forest from land grabbing, sugarcane growing and oil threats.

In 2019, cabinet issued a directive to the ministry of Water and Environment to open the boundaries of Bugoma forest as one of the ways of solving the land disputes it is engulfed in. The directive included the task of opening the boundaries of Bugoma forest to determine whether Hoima Sugar Limited encroached on the forest land and to resolve other pending boundary verification exercises ordered by the court to ensure the conservation of the forest.

According to the report, Hoima Sugar is the lawful owner of the over 5,000 ha of land which was given to it by Bunyoro kingdom. However, the report does not indicate whether this land falls under the forest reserve or not. For 20 individuals who claimed customary ownership of land which they say was also given to them by the kingdom, the report showed that this land falls within the forest reserve.

The report also shows that Bugoma forest has a total land area of 39,000 ha and not 41,000 ha as earlier claimed. Dickens Kamugisha, chairperson of Save Bugoma Forest Campaign said the report relies on illegally obtained certificates of registrations, the illegal Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate, the search statement and court judgments to reach a finding that Hoima Sugar Ltd is utilising land leased to it by the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara kingdom without determining whether that land is within the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve gazetted area.

“While we appreciate the exercise, we note that it falls short of expectations and does not solve the issue at hand. Rather, it seeks to validate the illegal land grab of the forest land. The government's failure to definitively address the encroachment issue is concerning. We urge a thorough investigation to ensure the conservation of Bugoma forest,” Kamugisha said.

Kamugisha added that they want the government to redo the boundary survey and ensure that the survey team has independent people to observe what is going on.

The survey was done by the department of surveys and mappings under the ministry of Lands which Kamugisha says its commissioner testified in court in 2016 that Hoima Sugar land was not part of the forest and therefore there is no way he would now produce a report which says otherwise.

“This report is a sham and if government really wants to save this forest, it needs to ensure that an independent survey is done. We know for sure that the surveys and mapping department is the very one who processed land titles for the entities like Hoima Sugar and MZ agencies who are not reflected in the report to be in the forest reserve and yet they also got that land from Bunyoro kingdom. If government was serious, they would not have allowed people from that department to be part of this survey because they was conflict of interest,” he added.

Geofrey Twesigye, the executive director of Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET) said they are going to ask communities in the Bunyoro region to sign another petition to send to the president to clearly express their dissatisfaction with this report and demand that another independent survey is carried out clearly identifying the specific areas of encroachment, who encroached where and how big it is.

He however noted that they are engaging the ministries of Lands and Water and Environment to take action on those individuals the report found to have encroached on the forest land because Bunyoro Kitara kingdom has no powers to give land in a central forest reserve.



0 #1 Lakwena 2024-03-25 16:48
Egypt and Sudan are virtually desert countries and yet have been the largest producers and exporter of Sugar.

Why does the government lead the Sugar companies into temptation by allocating them land for sugarcane plantation near Central and/or Forest Reserves?

The vice started in April 2007 when "Our Problem of Africa" attempted to allocate part of Mabira Forest to Lugazi, sic Mehta Sugar Corporation, which cost an Indian his life; when, led by then FDC Hon Beatrice Anywar (Mama Mabira) Ugandans took to the street to stop the mindlessness of giving away the remnant of the forest for growing sugarcane.

Unfortunately now quiet like the proverbial mouse, B Anywar has joined the camp of environment forest destroyers.
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0 #2 Akot 2024-03-25 19:01
No one has the right to destroy such beautiful natural spot that protects the earth, atmoshpere!

Time Ugandans ensure forests, wetlands, trees, grass...are protected,more planted & not destroyed!

Even Canada is now heating up!

Climate change is reality that not even migrating elsewhere will protect us from!

Ugandans have chance to just say NO to the tribalistic system & UNITE to show Museveni way out, then & only then, will they have chance to protect themselves, even from climate change!
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