ELAW partners at the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in Uganda are collaborating with the Save Bugoma Forest campaign to save the forest from plans to clear trees for a sugarcane plantation. 63% of Uganda's forest cover has been lost in the past three decades, and many community members and organizations have joined forces to stop the destruction.
At AFIEGO's request, ELAW prepared a report detailing the deficiencies of Hoima Sugar's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), including the failure to account for the large carbon footprint of sugarcane plantations and the impacts to wildlife. The ESIA dedicated only a single sentence to evaluating the impact on wildlife, "Loss of habitats for wildlife is another negative attribute that will arise."
Uganda's New Vision newspaper recently cited ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik's critique of Hoima Sugar's short-sighted plans: "Chernaik argued that it is unreasonable to consider that the information above is a comprehensive evaluation of the negative environmental impacts to wildlife by a project that would alter the landscape of 22 square miles adjacent to the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. The information contains no assessment or analysis of how the project would disturb threatened and endangered species and other keystone species that are the foundation of the biodiversity of the area."
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is 159 mi2 or 41,144 hectares of protected area. It is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine Rift Valley between Budongo and Semliki, playing an enormous role as a wildlife migratory corridor. It is also home to chimpanzees, mangabeys, and hundreds of bird species.
Protecting Bugoma Forest is key to the livelihoods of the local farming communities. Destruction and change to the forest will affect the climate and local water sources, and harm economic prospects, like tourism, that rely on conservation.
AFIEGO is challenging plans by Hoima Sugar Limited to convert 22 mi2 of forests adjacent to the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve into mixed-use development that includes a 12 mi2 sugar plantation. They have filed a petition to the High Court of Uganda seeking to overturn approval by the National Environmental Management Authority of the ESIA for the project.
Last month, following a protest at Bugoma Forest, eight community members and a staff member from AFIEGO were arrested en-route to a radio interview where they planned to discuss the danger of destroying Bugoma Forest and also of allowing oil activities in critical biodiversity areas. The campaigners have since been released.
"They were engaged in efforts to uphold Ugandans’ constitutional right to live in a clean and healthy environment," says Dickens. "The Constitution, National Environment Act of 2019 and other laws empower Ugandans to defend the above right and police should not deter Ugandans, including our campaigners, from defending Ugandans’ environmental and other rights."
ELAW will continue to support our partners in this critical campaign for a forested future.
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