By Kabuye Ronald
The Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) on Friday, May, 21, 2021 appealed against the ruling of the high Court judge Musa Ssekana in which he dismissed a case filed by the SBFC challenging the giveaway of part of the Bugoma Forest land for sugarcane plantation.
In the dismissed case SBFC members had sought court’s intervention to quash the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate of approval that was issued to Hoima Sugar Ltd (HSL) in August, 2020 by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), allowing Hoima Sugar limited to destroy part of the Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing among other developments.
Through their lawyers of M/S Kaganzi and co. advocates and M/S Kasadha and partners co. advocates, the SBFC argue that the judge erred in his grounds for dismissing the case.
They believe that if the judge’s decision is left unchallenged, the mafia groups that are intent on grabbing all Uganda’s forests and wetlands while being aided by some corrupt government agencies and officials who they say have continued to misuse and abuse the laws will be given the legal cover that they need to completely destroy the country’s important Eco sensitive areas.
Three conservation organizations; Water & Environment Media network (U) ltd (WEMNET-U), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Nape) and Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego) had petitioned the court in two separated cases which were later merged into one by court.
The organizations were seeking for a court declaration that the approval of the Environmental and Social Impact (ESIA) Statement and the NEMA issuing of the Certificate of Approval of ESIA Certificate to Hoima Sugar Limited for the Kyangwali Mixed Land Use Project was marred by flaws, procedural irregularities and without due recourse to the relevant provisions of the laws and regulations.
However, the judge observed that it appeared the complaints were premised on distorted facts and the NGOs attempted to suppress the real facts in order to make ‘flowery’ case in court by exaggerating that the entire forest is being cleared for sugarcane planting or that 5000 hectares (21 square miles) of the forest is being cleared for sugarcane growing.
Meanwhile, Besides the SBFC appeal, other environmental organizations have instituted a new case challenging the giveaway of part of Bugoma forest through their lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates. They include: Earth and rights initiative and The environmental shield
It’s also important to note that apparently, forest and woodland cover in Uganda stands at 49,000 km² or 24% of the total land area. Of these 9,242.08 km² is tropical rainforest, 350.60 km² are forest plantations and 39,741.02 km² is woodland.
It should also be recalled that in April this year, the 10th parliament approved a loan of 282.4 billion Shillings from the World Bank to invest in forests and protected areas in the country. However even with such government efforts NEMA had to endorse the giveaway part of the Bugoma Forest.