By BRIAN ADAMS KESIIME
Local authorities in Butambala District have protested a move by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to replace indigenous trees in Nawandigi Central Forest Reserve with exotic tree species.
They claim NFA, which is mandated to manage all central forest reserves in the country, has already cut down some indigenous tree species such as mvule, musizi and mahogany in the forest, and replaced them with eucalyptus trees, which are not suitable for the soil and climate of the district.
According to the district chairperson, Ms Rashidah Namboowa, NFA agents have not only destroyed the Nawandigi Forest but also depleted the neighbouring wetland, which is a key water source for residents.
” We cannot fold our arms and watch when NFA, which is mandated to protect forests, is bent on destroying them,” she said during an interview last weekend.
Mr Namboowa said with the help of concerned residents, they have so far arrested three people who reportedly connived with well-connected private tree planters to destroy the forest.
“The private tree growers are conniving with some unscrupulous local residents to clear part of the forest and after this, they approach NFA to secure licences to plant eucalyptus,” she added.
Mr Siraj Bbosa, the chairperson of Kabalamba Village, said some of the people who have cut trees in the forest are transported from Kampala and are not residents in the area.
“Even if they were residents, what they are doing is not good for our area. The damage caused by extensive planting of eucalyptus trees is already visible and if NFA doesn’t stop those people, we are going to do their work and flush out all those destroying our forest,” he said.
Nawandigi Forest Reserve, which stretches to the villages of Kabalamba, Bujumba, Kwezi and Kanoni, falls under Mpanga forest sector. Other depleted central forests in the district include Navugulu and Nanfuka.
Mr Habib Ssekiidde, a resident of Bujumba Village, said eucalyptus trees are dangerous due to their high consumption of ground water and they have dried up small rivers and springs in the district.
“It is evident that in places where eucalyptus trees have been planted, all water sources have dried up and residents are suffering. We have to mitigate such adverse effects by rejecting eucalyptus growing ” he said.
He wondered why NFA is insisting on planting eucalyptus rather than replacing the indegenous tree species.
But Mr Jonan Mugisha, the NFA range manager in-charge of Lake Shores Range, denied reports that NFA is cutting down natural trees in the forest .
“If it is happening, it could be the work of illegal loggers, not NFA and we are going to investigate that,” he said.
He, however, admitted that the depleted part of the forest has been used to grow eucalyptus for commercial purposes.
Before involving private tree growers from other areas, Mr Mugisha said NFA first gave priority to residents to carry out afforestation through the collaborative forest management groups but many failed to do the work.
“Many residents failed to comply and instead they continued to carry out crop growing. This forced us to call a meeting and we told them that we were going to involve experienced private tree growers, which they accepted,” he said.
Mr Mugisha said despite having only two staff in Butambala area, NFA has in the last decade managed to evict hundreds of encroachers from at least 29 forest reserves in the Greater Mpigi area and about 500 hectares of depleted forest reserves have been restored in collaboration with corporate companies.
Greater Mpigi, which also covers the districts of Butambala and Gomba, is one of the few areas in Uganda gifted with many natural forests.
But of its 38 forest reserves, 20 have been destroyed by loggers and farmers. According to the 2019 Water and Environment Sector Performance Report by the Ministry of Water, Uganda’s forest cover decline from 24 per cent in 1990 to 12.4 per cent in 2015.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/202107150914.html
Author : Monitor
Publish date : 2021-07-15 16:33:29