The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has joined other environment activists to demand an end to razing down of forests mainly aided by government officials.
Speaking during this year’s Running out of Trees (ROOT) Initiative which targets to plant 40 million trees countrywide which also coincided with celebrations to mark World Forest day, Kadaga said she was baffled by big names involved in deforestation.
“I went to Lamwo and the people were whispering to me the ones cutting down trees are leaders. I was later told it is one of the ministers. In this famous Bugoma forest, there are big names involved. It is not small people, but very big names in the country. During the day, they are talking environment but behind our backs, they are busy cutting down forests for sugarcanes,”Kadaga said on Sunday.
Bugoma forest has for the last two years or so been in the news for being cut down for sugarcane growing.
NEMA recently cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to use the forest reserve for sugarcane growing when it issued a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report.
The Speaker of Parliament said it is embarrassing that the people supposed to protect forests are the ones leading efforts to raze them down.
She noted that despite efforts by parliament to have a tree fund, the same has been frustrated by government.
“I have complained about the absence of the tree fund. Two years ago, we put it in the budget but when it went to the Ministry of Finance, they removed it yet it is part of our law.17 years after the National Forestry Act, we have not had it. I have talked about the national tree planting day but it is not yet in effect. If serious managers don’t see the benefit of tree planting, what will the ordinary person do,”Kadaga wondered.
The State Minister for Environment, Beatrice Anywar said there is need to strengthen the existing laws to ensure they are not only barking dogs but can also bite those in the wrong.
“Our laws need to be strengthened more because if we don’t deter people from cutting trees without knowing they are going to Luzira for some time, they will continue. As we grow more trees, we need to have efforts to protect the ones already planted,”Anywar said.
The Minister for Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris 65% of forest degradation takes place on private land and on several occasions the land owners choose land-use change from forestry to agriculture, industry or settlement over biodiversity conservation.
“Current national deforestation rates stand at 2% annually with an average of 122,000 hectares lost every year yet 6% of the GDP of Uganda and more than 90% of the population depends directly on forest for their energy needs. It is imperative therefore that we restore these forests faster than they are being degraded by human activity,”Cheptoris said.
Alvin Mbugua, the Managing Director of Uganda Breweries Limited affirmed the company’s continued support to government aimed at protecting the environment.
“The Ministry of Water and Environment’s bid to restore forest cover and reduce on the country’s greenhouse emissions ties well with UBL’s spirit of progress which is our 10-year action plan to help create a more sustainable world. We do this by playing a significant part in preserving the natural resources on which we all depend by regenerating and restoring the landscapes and resources we rely on,”Mbugua said.
According to Anne Juuko, the CEO for Stanbic Bank, there need for the private sector to come together to play a role in restoring the country’s importance.
“Our world is changing and we as corporate companies and our customers are completely dependent on this changing world. It is our shared responsibility as companies who benefit a lot from it, to protect it, to nurture it and as evidenced by the current need, to replenish it. On behalf of all the corporate sponsors, I would like to say that we take this responsibility seriously and that is why every year we do what we can to pitch in to Government efforts on environmental protection”, she said.