The communities around Bugoma Forest Reserve in Kikuube district under their umbrella Save Bugoma Campaign are collecting signatures to petition president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni over the continued destruction of the forest.
Desire Nkuruzinza, the chairman of the communities around the forest reserve, says they have collected signatures of over 15,000 residents to petition the president to stop the ongoing destruction.
According to Nkuruzinza, they are currently drafting a petition they intend to present to the president, the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, the Minister for Environment, religious leaders and NEMA among other relevant authorities to stop the further destruction of the forest.
Hassan Mugenyi, the campaign focal person, says the Bugoma forest is a habitat for different wild animals, medicinal plants. He says that the destruction of the forest reserve has forced wild animals that used to settle in the forest to raid peoples’ gardens and homes in search of food.
The issues of Bugoma Forest Reserve came to the front after Hoima Sugar Limited secured a lease of 99 years from Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom to grow sugarcane on 22 square miles of land. However, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found 13 out of the 22 square miles unfit for sugar plantation because they comprise a wetland and forest reserve.
As a result, NEMA allowed Hoima sugar to cultivate sugarcane on 9.24 square miles of grassland and establish an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles of land. The Memorandum of Understanding also tasked the sugar company to restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve, preserve 0.156 hectares for the cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.
However, a group of conservationists including the Water and Environment Media Network, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists and the African Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO protested the giveaway, saying it is a threat to the ecosystem and endangered species in the forest reserve.
Recently, Uganda Law Society teamed up with Environment Shield Limited- a civic organisation specializing in climate, natural resources and environmental justice and Resource Rights Africa, a research and advocacy organization that advocates for the promotion and protection of people’s rights filed a suit challenging the giveaway of Bugoma forest reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited for sugar cane growing.
They are jointly suing Hoima Sugar Ltd, National Environment Management Authority-NEMA and the Attorney General. They want the court to declare that NEMA omitted and didn’t adhere to the mandatory principles of environment management before approving an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment by the sugar firm.