A section of Members of Parliament have demanded for an extensive report from the Minister of Water and Environment about the country’s forest cover.
This was during the parliament sitting on Wednesday chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
Kadaga told MPs that she had received a complaint from Buganda Kingdom’s Bugerere County Chief James Ssempigga about the destruction of Gagama forest in Kayunga district with plans to replace it with an industrial park.
She tasked the Minister of Water and Environment to take up the complaint immediately and salvage the fears of the citizens.
Following Kadaga’s communication, several MPs led by Kayunga Woman MP Idah Nantaba raised similar complaints about the immense destruction of the country’s forest cover.
Nantaba told Parliament that besides the destruction of Gagama forest, other forests in her district like Wamale forest were grabbed to facilitate sugarcane planting. She also mentioned Kiyuna forest that is under threat.
Mukono South MP Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga suggested that government re-opens boundaries of all forest reserves to clearly show where they cover to deter encroachers.
Kioga County MP Anthony Okello Anthony, a member of the Natural Resources Committee says that the forest cover in the country is under immense threat and that this was worse with forests located in urban places like towns.
He demanded that parliament gets furnished with an extensive report about the forests in the country. Okello added that it was sad that several people have land titles in forest reserves provided by the same government.
“So I think we need a very serious analysis of our forest cover and we need to support the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to demarcate or open boundaries of the forests and put pillars so that they are visible. We need to discourage people who want to grab forest land,” he said.
Kapelebyong County MP Julius Ochen reported that in his constituency, a forest reserve he identified as Alumamosimosi was totally cut down by military officers who harvested all the timber and left.
“As we waited for a proper report from government, NFA came and started planting mark stones even taking over people’s land. As we are investigating this matter, we need to also fight for the people losing their land. Some people have vested interest in the land around forests and we need to know these people because they are using the cover of forests to annex the land of the ordinary people,” said Ochen who said that 5,000 people in Kapelebyong had been displaced.
He demanded that the Minister responsible avails parliament a report on the country’s forests and clearly states government’s position in protecting the forest cover and people around the forests.
Kiwanuka Keefa, the Chairperson Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee reported two issues currently destabilizing the sector noting that NFA had not been provided the required Shillings 10 billion to carry out demarcations hence leaving boundaries of forests some areas under dispute.
He also noted that his committee recently received a complaint from NFA of about 20 land titles issued on a central forest reserve. The Kiboga East MP said that the forest Authority was equally seeking their help on the matter.
Kitagwenda County MP Agaba Abbas also shared the same sentiments like other MPs saying that also Kakasi forest reserve in his constituency is also under threat. He said that strangers are cutting down the trees coupled with mining activities.
Beatrice Anywar, the Minister of State for Environment undertook to present a comprehensive statement on the matter before parliament. She also said that the biggest challenge they have is the absence of funds to demarcate the forest boundaries yet it is urgent to jealously guard against grabbing.