By George Busiinge
Environmental activists across the country have condemned the continued depletion of Bugoma Forest Reserve in Hoima district. Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, in Hoima district has been subject to encroachment, illegal timber logging and agriculture for crop production. Experts warn that the trend spells doom for the region if not reversed in the wake of global warming.
A group of environmentalists who include Association for the Conservation of Bugoma forest, National Forest Authority-NFA, Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust-CSWCT, association of Uganda tour operators, Environmental police and Jane Goodall Institute among other recently converged at Rwera Eco-tourism site in Bugoma Forest Kabwoya sub-county to mark World Forest Day with a call for stiff penalties against encroachers.
Costantino Tessarin, the chairman of the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest says encroachment on Bugoma forest is a threat to the development of tourism in the country because the reserve acts as a home to thousands of species of birds among other endangered species of Animals.
He noted that Bugoma forest is one of the most treasured forests world over because of its richness in endangered species such as chimpanzees, Endemic Monkey such as Ugandan Mangabeys that are found in few areas globally and endangered birds such as Nahan’s francolin. He added that Bugoma is growing as tourism destination and demanded that it should be protected.
He noted several people have been arrested in forest but unfortunately they leave them to go free. He explained that noted that the failure by government agencies to implement environmental laws has attracted more encroachers in the forest reserve hence calling for tough penalty to the culprits.
Over 5000 hectares of forest land have been destroyed since 2012 by illegal lumbering, charcoal burners and cultivators. They cited the former Hoima Mayor Francis Atugonza who was early this year was arrested for aiding encroachment in Rwempunu village part of Bugama forest leaving over 5000 acres cleared down.
Joshua Rukundo, the operation Manager CSWCT says that chimpanzees in Bugoma forest are starving because of the tree species that provide them food have been cleared adding that this likely to create human and wildlife conflict. He noted that currently Bugoma 60 chimpanzees but they are likely to relocate due the continued destruction of its habitants.
SP Jackson Baryapika the Albert region environmental police commander said that Bugoma forest which used to be known as the biggest forest reserve in country has turned into skeleton in few years. He advised that local should be empowered to protect this forest adding that NFA and police cannot do much. ”A forest that would benefit generations is being depleted by few individual, this unfortunately and we should join hands to save this forest”
Hoima District has 11 central forest reserves covering 61,162 hectares. The Bunyoro sub-region has 34 central forest reserves but environmentalists estimate that the region loses over 700 hectares of forests annually.