Parliament urges Gov’t to take radical measures against rampant deforestation

Loggers and charcoal burners are majorly responsible for massive deforestation in Uganda; Courtesy Photo

By Mary Asujo

Members of Parliament have called on government to reign over the increasing deforestation across the country, following reports of rampant tree cutting for charcoal burning and timber.

MPs observed that there is a growing market for charcoal, which has ultimately escalated deforestation in Uganda, and implored government to use an iron hand to curtail this unregulated business.

“Increasingly, we are seeing deforestation year in year out; an example is Mabira Forest. The trees are actually along the road but there is nothing when you enter the forest” said Ibanda North MP, Guma Gumisiriza.

Hon Gumisiriza was reacting to a statement by the Minister of State for Environment, Beatrice Anywar, on the rampant tree cutting reported in Agago District, during the plenary sitting of Thursday, 18 March 2021.

Gumisiriza says that since dialogue does not seem to solve environment-related issues, tougher law enforcement measures must be applied to save the environment.

“There is a lot of talking here. But since democracy seems not to be working, let us employ other means, because the so many charcoal burners who have been arrested will be released in this corrupt society of ours,” says Gumisiriza.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was equally disturbed that despite the numerous times Parliament has discussed environmental issues, government has not demonstrated the willingness to address them.

“There is no good will from government to address this issue, on a number of occasions I have talked about what Ethiopia did to address this issue when they declared a decade of trees by planting 10 million trees per year. They now have 120 million new trees and for us here we just talk,” says Kadaga.

Kadaga adds that a private members’ Bill on forestry and tree planting was tabled in the 8th and the 9th Parliaments but that government has not followed it up.

Uganda’s forest cover has been depleted to 8% up from 24% in 1990s, largely attributed to human encroachment for different activities such as tree cutting for charcoal and timber as well as agriculture.

Legislators urged government to urgently provide alternative sources of energy for domestic use, saying over reliance on charcoal and firewood as the main sources of energy provides people with no choice but to encroach on forests.

“Uganda must have alternative sources of energy, we are relying heavily on charcoal and without trees we cannot cook food,” said Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho. Macho proposed that Uganda could take a leaf from Kenya which he said has lowered the tax on gas to enable as many people use gas for cooking.

The Gomba East MP, Emmanuel Kalule Ssengo asked the minister to take interest in a tree species in Rukungiri district, which he says is grown purely for charcoal and grows within the shortest time possible.

Minister Anywar assured legislators that government was on course in reprimanding charcoal burners and forest encroachers.

“In the last two months, my Ministry backed by the Environment Police Protection Unit has been carrying out operations in the districts of East Acholi to address the issues of rampant tree cutting. In Agago district, we have so far flushed out charcoal burners where a total of 11 suspects were arrested,” Hon Anywar noted.

She also pledged to expeditiously process the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act to strengthen the protection of trees and forests.



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