KAMPALA – Government is making deliberate efforts to protect the existing forest cover by creating alternative areas where new forests can be planted.
This was revealed by the Minister for Water and Environment, Hon. Sam Cheptoris, while appearing before the Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.
The Minister said that there was a public notice in 2008 reminding municipalities and town councils to finalize the process of identifying and procuring land before forest reserves can be degazetted.
“There is no urban authority that has satisfied the provisions and procedures of degazettement as stipulated in section 8 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003,” said Cheptoris.
He added that the Act prescribes the procedure of acquiring land for exchange as well as conducting environmental impact assessments pending verification of certificates of title for land exchange.
MPs on the Committee tasked the Minster to explain the criteria for degazettement of forest land noting that there seems to be individual players in a process supposed to be managed by Government.
“Soroti is one of the districts whose urban authorities have failed to satisfy this criteria,” said Hon. Herbert Ariko (FDC, Soroti Municipality).
He added that, “one wealthy individual has offered the urban council alternative land so that he can take over land in Soroti Forest Reserve; is this allowed?”
Rwampara County MP, Hon. Charles Ngabirano said there is excessive destruction of forests in Mbarara district which he attributed to fraud by officials who he said are mandated to protect the environment.
“Most of the places where there were forests in Mbarara have been given up for industrialization but it seems there is no effort to replace the destroyed trees. NFA is in a fix and the Committee must move with them to determine which areas should be degazetted,” Ngabirano said.
Cheptoris told MPs that the process of degazetting forests was being done much in favour of personal gains rather than public interest, adding that such activities were done in the dark in liaison with some urban council officials.
“There is a lot of corruption. Some people offer land that is far off from the urban centres yet the forests play a major role in absorbing greenhouse gases emitted in majorly cities,” the Minister aid.
The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Keefa Kiwanuka, said the process of authentic degazetting of forests in Uganda was long overdue, adding that a process that was initiated in 2002 ought to have been completed. He called for urgent action to be taken.