February 23, 2024

MPs to probe sugarcane growing in Bugoma forest

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Hoima Sugar has deployed a bulldozer in Bugoma central forest reserve. URN photo

HOIMA

The Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has directed Members of Parliament on the committee of Natural Resources to probe the degradation of Bugoma forest after parts of it were allocated for sugarcane growing.

Bunyoro kingdom in 2016 gave away 22 square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Kikuube district to Hoima Sugar Limited for 99 years. The kingdom endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding and a lease agreement to facilitate sugarcane growing in part of the forest reserve. The forest is about 40,000 hectares big.

However, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found 13 square miles, out of the 22 square miles unfit for sugar plantation. They were in a wetland and forest reserve, which should be conserved.

As a result, Hoima sugar was allowed to cultivate sugarcane on 9.24 square miles, covering an area that was entirely grassland, establish an urban centre on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve. Another 0.156 hectares will be preserved for the cultural site and 6.17 square miles conserved as a natural forest.

Following a petition to the speaker by environmental conservationists under their forum Save Bugoma Forest Campaigns 2020, led by their lawyer and a member Bashir Twesigye, Oulanyah said the matter will be debated in the house on Tuesday next week and probed by the Parliament committee.

Oulanyah says the trees are being destroyed at a time when there is a tree-planting campaign.

The Save Bugoma Forest Campaign has also called for an investigation into people in government, and private sector involved in the giveaway of Bugoma.

They also want the government to use its powers of compulsory acquisition under Article 26 of the constitution to save Bugoma forest and its catchment areas from land grabbers.

Twesigye explains that whereas sugarcane is important, a forest-like Bugoma should be preserved and not exploited. He called for an independent survey to be conducted to assess what remains of the forest.

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