Civil Society Task NEMA On Bugoma Restoration As World Celebrates Environment Day

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) subscribing to the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) have written to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) requesting for a copy of the approved restoration plan for Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR).

The SBFC, an umbrella body, is made up of the forest host communities, civil society and private sector entities whose main objective is to defend Bugoma CFR located in Kikuube district in Western Uganda from land grabbing, sugarcane growing and oil threats.

In a press statement released as part of their activities to mark World Environment Dat, the SBFC also wants NEMA and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to ensure that Hoima Sugar Limited (HSL) halts all its destructive activities in Bugoma CFR and restores the forest.

Save Bugoma Forest Campaign campaigners fault NEMA for authorizing Hoima Sugar activities in Bugoma forest in August 2020 by issuing an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

 With the approval from NEMA, Hoima Sugar set up a sugarcane plantation on 9.24sq. miles, developed an urban centre on 1.206 sq. miles, set up an ecotourism site on 1.97 sq. miles, land for a cultural site covering 0.156 sq. miles; and left a natural forested area and set up nature trails on 6.17 sq. miles.

"While NEMA allowed HSL to grow sugarcane in some parts of Bugoma forest, reports by the SBFC in January 2021 and investigations by NEMA in September 2022 showed that the company had grown sugarcane in the area reserved for ecotourism purposes. The area reserved for natural forested purposes was also degraded," the statement from SBFC revealed.

Dickens Kamugisha, the chairperson of the SBFC, said that while the forest host communities and the public are highly interested in the restoration of Bugoma forest, NEMA has not publicly shared the restoration plan that Hoima Sugar submitted to them. 

Hassan Mugenyi, the chairperson of the SBFC local task force adds, “We do not know if any restoration plan for Bugoma exists. If it does, we were not consulted on it yet as people who have lived near Bugoma forest for a long time and have enjoyed benefits from the forest, we are interested in the conservation of the forest. We can also share information to inform restoration of the forest.”

The SBFC now recommends that NEMA should publicly share a copy of the approved restoration plan for Bugoma forest by HSL, stop the ongoing destruction of Bugoma forest and that the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) makes public the boundary opening report of Bugoma forest.

The recommendation is that government should ensure that the conservation of Bugoma forest is promoted under the Forest Partnership that the government signed with the European Union

in November 2022 and that  Bugoma forest should be turned into a national park to better conserve the forest and protect the environment.

Youths Protest Delayed Restoration Of Bugoma Land By Hoima Sugar

Youth for Green Communities, a local Non-Government Authority, on 20th March 2023, wrote to the Executive Director of Hoima Sugar Ltd protesting the delayed restoration of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), on 27th September 2022, released a Press Statement in which it ordered Hoima Sugar to safeguard the environment and stop any further damage to the environment.

In the statement, NEMA asked Hoima Sugar to immediately stop any further deforestation of the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for the urban centre.

It also asked Hoima Sugar not to plant any sugar cane in the said reserved area, restore degraded areas, prepare and implement a restoration plan for the affected areas at the company's cost and permit third parties approved by the Authority to participate in the restoration process.

Further, NEMA halted the urbanization of the 312.3ha which had earlier in 2020 been approved to be developed into an urban centre - NEMA said that the said area should be kept as a natural forest in view of the country's effort to recover forest cover loss.

In September last year, NEMA had warned that failure to comply with the given instructions would result in NEMA cancelling the ESIA certificate and further legal actions against Hoima Sugar Limited.

The National Environment Management Authority issued Hoima Sugar Ltd an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate No. NEMA/ESIA/13709 on 14th August 2020 to implement its projects.

Section 4 of the ESIA Certificate indicated specific conditions and components of the project as follows: Sugarcane Plantation (9.24 sq. miles); Urban Centre (1.206 sq. miles); Eco-tourism Centre (1.97 sq. miles); Cultural Site (0.156 sq. miles / 40.4038 ha) and The natural reserved forest and nature walk-ways/trails (6.17 sq. miles).

But according to the protest letter by Youth for Green Communities, Hoima Sugar has not heeded to the directives by NEMA, almost a year later.

According to Aryampa Brighton, the Chief Executive Officer of Youth for Green Communities, they are demanding that the company immediately stops the forest destruction for sugarcane plantations in compliance with NEMA orders.

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