The Anti Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) has blamed rampant deforestation of Uganda forest cover to illegal cutting of trees for charcoal smuggling across porous borders to neighbouring countries and beyond.
This was revealed by the Anti Corruption executive director, Cissy Kagaba in Kampala on Thursday, during Natural Resources stakeholders’ Roundtable meeting to discuss issues that breed ineffectiveness in the implementation of forest trade in Uganda.
Kagaba said deforestation has been partly attributed to illegal logging, unsustainable harvesting and illegal and uncertified products on the market.
“As the country strives to achieve middle income status, heavy investments in the sectors of development such as infrastructure, works of oil and gas development require forest products to meet their demand,” said Kagaba.
She said over 80 per cent of the timber traded in the markets is illegal, causing an estimated annual financial loss of Shs 23 billion through unpaid taxes.
Abbey Mawerere, supervisor, Rapid Response Unit at Uganda Revenue Authority, said charcoal smuggling is carried out on “No Man’s Land” across porous border posts with neighbouring countries.
He blamed the vice on the lack of cooperation from local leaders on both sides’ major border points, saying the majority of these local leaders are parties in the Charcoal smuggling rackets.
The chairperson of the Natural Resources committee in Parliament, Dr Keefa Kiwanuka (NRM, Kiboga East), said impunity and corruption within the forest sector has largely affected the forest cover in Uganda.
He said unscrupulous public officials connive with corrupt individuals to cut down trees in forest reserves, thereby escalating depletion of forest cover.
“Rapid urbanisation, floods and illegal cutting of timber has drastically affected the forest cover in the country”, he said.
He said there is a need for stringent legal measures to be put in place to protect forest cover in Uganda and promised to spearhead the various amendments of the Law on National Forest and Tree Planting Act.