By: Ismael Kasooha
The National Policy Committee on Environment has resolved to ban the export of timber and canceled all licenses and permits issued in this regard as one way of protecting the environment in the country.
This follows a directive issued by President Yoweri Museveni dated 21st June 2023 instructing the prime minister to take action to reverse the worrying trends of forestry cover degradation.
According to the letter, the president was concerned that there was indiscriminate harvesting of forests in the country whether private or public in the guise of exporting it especially in areas of Mubende and Kibaale Districts.
While communicating the resolutions of the meeting, the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja who chaired the meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister said that the ban took effect immediately.
Nabbanja said that all government law enforcement agencies were instructed to implement the directive and whoever failed to comply should be disciplined accordingly.
“It has been resolved that the degradation of Forests must stop as per the Presidential Directive with immediate effect and stop issuance of export licenses and cancel those already issued for those that are not adding value,” said Nabbanja.
The Committee also agreed to strengthen enforcement of implementation of investment licenses and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) permits.
Nabbanja said that all those that had permits and licenses should abide by the directive and that the government had already put in place a legal team to address any issues that may arise as a result of the directive.
Other issues agreed to take Disciplinary action against culpable officers who failed to implement the directive and Expedite the review of the National Forest Act to address the emerging issues in the forestry sector, Stop the issuance of EIA certificates by NEMA to developers in wetlands
NEMA issued a public notice stopping issuance of EIA certificates to develop wetlands in 2019 and this still stands.
Developments already in the wetlands should be cancelled and wetland restored.
The State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar welcomed the directive issued by the president and promised to ensure that the order was implemented to the dot.
The Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development Judith Nabakooba said that they had already begun investigating the titles that were issued in government forest reserves to comply with the presidential directive.
Dr. Edward Mukiza, the Director General Uganda Investment Authority said that Uganda was a bio-diversity country that should protect the environment even by the investors who come to the country.
Dr. Tom Obong Okello the Executive Director National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Francis Sabino Ogwal, the Acting Executive Director National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) welcomed the presidential directive and pledged to implement it fully to save the country from deforestation.
In a related development the National Policy Committee on environment also resolved to suspend all activities taking place in Bugoma forest whether it belongs to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom or government or any individual.
“The encroachment and deforestation of Bugoma Forest Reserve by Bunyoro Kingdom must stop forthwith and we should develop a Uganda legal framework to guide trade in carbon in the country,” Nabbanja said.
It was also agreed to maintain urban forests in urban centers to promote green and sustainable cities all over the country.
Nabbanja said that the government was determined to preserve the environment for a common good.
The Kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara had issued a lease of 99 years to Hoima Sugar limited to clear 24 square miles of Bugoma forest to plant sugar cane.
NEMA cleared Hoima Sugar to continue with its activities after a protracted legal battle by government and civil society and the general public.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Lands Housing and Urban Development Judith Nabakooba briefed the meeting that the Bugoma Central Forest reserve boundary opening report was ready and would be disseminated the next week to the public.
According to available literature, Uganda had 10 million hectares of Forest cover, fell down to 4.9million hectares in 1990 but currently the country has less than 2 million hectares of forest cover.
However, the country has been steadily increasing the forest cover but the mushrooming wood processing units in the country have led to a reduction in the forest cover.