‘You Sanctioned Hoima Sugar Company But Rejected Oil Roads’: NEMA Caught Up In Bugoma Forest Saga

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'You Sanctioned Hoima Sugar Company But Rejected Oil Roads': NEMA Caught Up In Bugoma Forest Saga
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The construction of the 18-kilometre road between Kaseeta and Lwera that was earmarked as an oil road was rejected three years ago to avoid destroying part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve.

“It was realised that Kaseeta-Lwera road was going to damage part of the habitat of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, so it was dropped from the list of oil roads,” said Tom Rukundo, the director of natural forests under the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

“It was one of the roads that were supposed to be tarmacked.”

This follows the giveaway of a chunk of the forest to sugarcane growing after the decision to drop the road was made during the discussions on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment studies between the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and NFA.

The road cuts across Bugoma and it has many crossing points for chimpanzees, as well as other primates and reptiles.

The decision to spare Bugoma by not expanding the road has left environmental conservation   experts wondering how and why NEMA stopped the Kaseeta-Lwera road project, but gave a go ahead to the conversion of part of Bugoma into a sugarcane plantation.

However last week  a group of environmental conservation activists under their slogan, “NO TO DEATH OF FOREST”  publicly and angrily came out to mobilize Ugandans, Companies, NGOs among other stakeholders to boycott Hoima Sugar Limited products that have since been branded as a major threat to Eco-system in the country.

Part Of The Perishing Bugoma Forest

According to Dickens Kamugisha and other activists of ‘Save Bugoma’ campaign, in their address to journalists over the weekend, said their efforts to control the foreign sugar company have not yielded any fruits hence mobilizing for a boycott.

“Hoima Sugar Limited has ignored calls from Ugandans to stop cutting down the forest, it is very unfortunate that the company is rapidly shaving down the forest to plant sugarcanes by fronting the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment certificate from NEMA, yet we have challenged it in court,” Kamugisha said.

“We have been left with no choice but to urge Ugandans, traders, banks, markets and the world at large not to buy Hoima sugar and other products from the company because owners have adamantly refused to heed to calls to desist from destroying the environment.”

In addition, Sam Musinguzi, a concerned  citizen revealed that 1.8% of Uganda’s forest cover is lost every year and that in the past 20 years, 25% of the country’s forests have been cut down, although national leaders seem not to be concerned about the importance of conserving natural forests and other eco-systems.

“We can’t afford to lose such a tropical forest that is of great benefit to the country and the continent at large during such a time when we are advocating against climate change.  It is a shame that someone wants to destroy a forest but thinks their children will have a bright future when the environment is destroyed. We can’t stoop so low like that,” Mucunguzi said.

The angry and hurting Mucunguzi added that it makes no sense for their lazy and greedy leaders [who are reported to be eating multi-billion bribes out of the Hoima sugar company to be discussing eco-tourism when a forest which contributes greatly to tourism is being put down.

“Why should such a rare tropical forest go down for ridiculous reasons like growing sugarcanes yet Busoga region which has been engaged in the same business has not benefited much from the growing of sugarcane? We are mobilizing the public to boycott Hoima Sugar products and also isolate employees of the company,” he vowed

Bugoma sits on 41,000 hectare forest reserve that accommodates about 600 chimpanzees and birds, including the Nahan’s Francolin and the African Grey Parrot. It also has a big tourism potential, given that oil has been discovered in Bunyoro region and new infrastructure, including roads and Kabale International Airport, are being developed.

Recently, NEMA cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to cultivate sugarcanes on 9.24 square miles in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, Kikuube district in western Uganda. The decision was made on grounds that 9.24 square miles is grassland.

NEMA also allowed Hoima sugar to establish an urban centre on 1.26square miles and also establish an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles and restore 3.13 square miles of Bugoma.

The top Government watchdog on environment also ordered Hoima Sugar to preserve 0.156 hectares for the cultural site, conserve 6.17 square miles as a natural forest. This totals to 21.54 hectares of land (approximately 22 square miles) or 5,579 hectares.

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