Legislators want a special audit into the process of acquisition of rights to manage central forest reserves in the country in line with the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act.
A statement presented to the House by the Shadow Minister for Environment, Hon. Christine Kaaya, on Tuesday, 17 January 2023 cited misuse of licenses issued by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).
Kaaya noted that natural forests in central forest reserves have been cut down, destroyed or completely removed, and have been replaced by pine and eucalyptus trees.
She listed Mabira National Forest Reserve as one most affected forests whose internal integrity has been deplorably destroyed.
“We expect the Minister for Environment to report on the action taken against encroachers on forests and the steps taken to replant, regenerate and expand the coverage of forests,” Kaaya said.
She added that the NFA should review its policy on issuing out licenses to harvest forest products, as well as revoke all licenses where licensees do not comply with terms and conditions stated therein.
In the statement, Kaaya referred to Ministry of Water and Environment records that indicate the plummeting of Uganda’s forest cover from 24 per cent in 1990 to10 per cent by 2017.
She added that by 2002, Uganda is reported to have lost 736 square kilometres of forest cover, double compared to 297 square kilometers lost in 2001.
“A total Shs628 billion was approved in Financial Year 2022/2023 for actions to mitigate and adopt to climate change. This included re-surveying and marking 6200 square kilometres of boundary to increase national forest cover from current 12.4 per cent to 15 per cent, and restoring 850 square kilometres of wetlands on forests,” she said.
She noted that no funds, however, were allocated for actual tree planting to restore significantly deforested areas.
“What are the specifications other than demarcating boundaries that government is undertaking to restore and expand the current coverage of forests? We need a report on forest areas surveyed by NFA in the last quarter as required by the National Forestry Act,” she added.
Hon. Jesca Ababiku (NRM, Adjumani District) asked the Prime Minister to update the House on how government is ensuring protection and conservation of the environment.
Pakwach Woman MP, Hon. Jane Avur, suggested that Members of Parliament ought to sensitise their constituents to plant more trees so as to increase the country’s forest cover.
Hon. John Musila (Indp., Bubulo East County) urged government to encourage Ugandans to conserve their private forested lands, through funding to conserve them.
Kanyum County MP, Hon. Simon Peter Opolot, tasked government to account for funds appropriated by Parliament to purchase tree seedlings for Ugandans.
The Speaker, Anita Among, directed the Minister for Water and Environment to present an action report by Tuesday, 24 January 2023, on the recommendations and prayers cited in the statement by Hon. Kaaya.