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.