KAMPALA – Members of Parliament have called on government to reign over the increasing deforestation across the country, following reports of rampant tree cutting for charcoal burning and timber.
MPs observing that there is a growing market for charcoal business, which ultimately increases deforestation; implored government to use an iron hand and refrain this unregulated business.
“Increasingly, we are seeing deforestation year in year out, an example is Mabira Forest, the trees are actually along the road but there is nothing when you go behind,” said Ibanda North MP, Guma Gumisiriza.
Gumisiriza said that since dialogue does not seem to solve environment related issues, tougher law enforcement measures must be applied to save the environment.
“There is a lot of talking here. But since democracy seems not to be working, let us employ other means, because the so many charcoal burners who have been arrested will be released in this corrupt society of ours,” said Gumisiriza.
He was reacting to a statement by the Minister of State for Environment, Beatrice Anywar, on the rampant tree cutting in Agago district, during the plenary sitting of Thursday.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was equally disturbed that despite the numerous times Parliament has discussed environmental issues, government has not demonstrated the willingness to address them.
“There is no good will from government to address this issue, on a number of occasions I have talked about what Ethiopia did to address this issue, they declared a decade of trees by planting 10 million trees per year. They now have 120 million new trees and for us here we just talk,” said Kadaga.
Kadaga added that a private members’ Bill on forestry and tree planting was tabled in the 8th and the 9th Parliaments but that government has not followed it up.
Legislators urged government to urgently provide alternative sources of energy for domestic use, saying over reliance on charcoal and firewood as the main sources of energy provides people with no choice but to encroach on forests.
“Uganda must have alternative sources of energy, we are relying heavily on charcoal and without trees we cannot cook food,” said Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho.
Macho proposed that Uganda could take a leaf from Kenya which he said has lowered the tax on gas to enable as many people use gas for cooking.
The Gomba East MP, Emmanuel Kalule Ssengo asked the minister to take interest in a tree species in Rukungiri district, which he said is grown purely for charcoal and grows within the shortest time possible.
Minister Anywar assured legislators that government was on course in reprimanding charcoal burners and forest encroachers.
“In the last two months, my Ministry backed by the Environment Police Protection Unit has been carrying out operations in the districts of East Acholi to address the issues of rampant tree cutting. In Agago district, we have so far flushed out charcoal burners where a total of 11 suspects were arrested,” said Anywar.
She pledged to expeditiously process the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act to strengthen the protection of trees and forests.