A Member of Parliament has vowed to mobilise her colleagues to block the National Forestry Authority (NFA) budget for the financial year 2024/2025 if the survey and boundary opening reports for Bungoma Central forest reserves in Midwestern Uganda are not not released to the public.
Speaking to The Sunrise Newspaper in an exclusive Interview, Christine Nakimwero Kaaya, the Woman MP for Kiboga District who doubles as the shadow minister for Water and Environment said that she would mobilize her colleagues to resist to the NFA budget unless the Bungoma survey report is released and implemented to save the country’s tropical forests in the Albertine region.
Expressing her dismay for what she called a deliberate delay of the release of the report, the legislator warned that as the August House is handling the 2024/2025 Budget framework paper, the NFA budget will suffer because of the frustration of these reports.
“We want the survey report that was done on those forests and we ensure that the money that we are going to accord NFA, goes to monitoring, it goes to environmental police to ensure that the boundaries demarcated are actually left intact, we are calling on all the people who are there illegally to vacate the places……we want our forests intact such that we are able to absorb the carbon from the oil extraction activities,” Nakimwero noted.
She also called on the local governments in Bunyoro sub-region to work towards cancellation of the land titles that were acquired within the forest reserve saying that the Bugoma and Bujingo forests must be protected because of their vital role in absorption of carbon emissions due to the activities of oil and gas exploration anticipated to commence next year.
“The oil extraction, the use of the Kabale Airport, the Oil refinery, all these activities which are going to generate all forms of emissions, and globally Uganda, we are looked at as a country that is going to foster fossil fuels but we are also trying to tell them that now, we are ready, so our readiness can only be shown in the establishment of forest reserves, serious acreage of what can absorb the emissions from these oil extraction activities,” she added.
Following a cabinet directive in 2019, the ministry lands, Housing and Urban development embarked on the boundary reopening of the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve as part of the initiatives to save this national resource.
However, since the completion of the exercise in 2022, the government has remained mute about the report, yet the destruction of the forest reserve continues unabated.
The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development said it is still waiting for the cabinet to consider its report on the boundary reopening of the Bungoma Central Forest Reserve before its findings are disseminated.
The Ministry embarked on the boundary reopening of the Bungoma Central Forest Reserve as part of the initiatives aimed at saving this national resource.
The Ministry of Lands spokesperson Dennis Obbo clarified that whereas the Ministry did its part as per the cabinet directives in 2019, the cabinet has not sanctioned the release of the report findings for the exercise that was conducted in 2022.
The Ministry of Lands conducted the reopening of the boundary of the Bungoma Central Forest reserve.
Obbo adds that thereafter a report was produced, discussed before the two ministers of lands and that of water and environment before it was submitted to cabinet for consideration.
“We (Ministries of Land and that of Water and Environment) prepared a cabinet memo and attached a detailed report which was submitted by both ministers of lands and the Minister of Water and Environment to cabinet for review, consideration and guidance on the next steps so far as the ministry or as ministries we did our job”-Obbo said.
Obbo added that, they opened boundaries, the exercise was very participatory because they involved partners and all those who had a claim.
“Once cabinet has given a go ahead, we shall go back and disseminate the findings and also share the report but as of now we cannot share the report because it is a cabinet document,” he noted.
Obbo said he was not aware of what was discussed in cabinet, but further stressed that once they did their submissions which were based on the cabinet directives but hoped that the matter would be given priority.
He expressed optimism that either this first quarter of the year or in the next quarter, the issue will be discussed and finalized.
Then the two ministries will go back to the ground and have meetings to share the report. He adds that in case of any contestation, those too will be reported back to the authorities.