KAMPALA – Parliament has launched a new committee on climate change with intent to curb the giveaway of Bugoma forest to pave way for sugarcane farming by an investor.
Addressing journalists at Parliament on Wednesday 14 following the committee’s formation in March 2019, the Climate Committee Chairperson, Lawrence Songa Biyika who is the Ora County MP said that although Uganda has signed conventions, ratified treaties, held conferences, passed legislation and even led campaigns to plant trees and reverse the threatening negative trend taking our environment down, these efforts need coordination, supervision and oversight which explains why the committee was established.
“Desertification is a reality today. Just in 1990, our forest cover was at 24% but now we are facing a steady decline as it stands at 11% as at 2015. Parliament thought wise to have a standing committee so that it can be able to make government responsive towards climate change in all sectors of the economy,” he said.
Hon Songa stated that of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets, a number of the goals relate to climate change and it is important for Uganda to focus on these goals to ensure that the climate effect doesn’t crash the economy within a short time saying there is need to adapt mitigation measures to limit green gas emission so that the adverse impact can be prevented or delayed.
He explained, “We assure Ugandans that this committee will, on their behalf and without fear or favour treat the matter of climate change as a national emergency, therefore, employ a strict code of operations that will ensure and enforce compliance with guidelines by all stakeholders and citizens. We will dedicate ourselves to the noble task of restoration of our environment and ensuring that we give our environment the highest priority that is necessary to ensure our safety and that we ultimately bequeath to our children a better climate than we have found.”
Asked by journalists what the Committee intends to do about Bugoma forest, Songa revealed plans to revisit the decision and advise Government on the best solution to take over the matter, saying;
“We as a committee we are supposed to advise the government on all the actions. We shall within our means do our best to save our forest. We shall put it in our agenda to see that anything to do with destroying forest without any alterative.”
Last month, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga attacked Justice Wilson Musene for his ruling in which the Judge okayed the destruction of forest in Hoima to pave way for sugar cane growing saying the ruling only works to further antagonise the climate change crisis that Uganda is facing.
Without directly mentioning Musene’s name, Kadaga said that it was about time courts considered incorporating environmental-friendly policies in their rulings arguing;
“I was very angry to hear that court to cut the whole forest, I thought that the courts should incorporate in environmental protection in their judgments. It was also extremely painful to hear that the minister can’t interfere because of separation of powers and that local government have their own rights. Let us stop this business that local government are separate, these forests are for all of us.”
Her statement is in response to a High Court ruling that rejected the application to halt the destruction of 22 square kilometres of Bugoma Forest in Hoima District, ruling that the land belongs to Hoima Sugar Limited and Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom and that the company was free to start sugarcane growing.
The controversial ruling was issued by Masindi High Court Judge Musene who dismissed an application in which the National Forestry Authority (NFA) had sought a temporary order halting the move to clear the forest for sugarcane with Justice Musene noting that there was no need to grant an injunction to NFA because the land under contention is not part of the forest reserve.
Justice Musene defended his ruling on grounds that Hoima Sugar Limited was making losses and NFA was free to reclaim the land after ruling on their appeal is held in the Authority’s favour.