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Activists Raise Alarms Over Leaked Bugoma Forest Survey Report

Activists Raise Alarms Over Leaked Bugoma Forest Survey Report

Kampala, Uganda | | A coalition of civil society organizations and environmental activists, united under the Save Bugoma Forest campaign, have voiced grave concerns over a leaked survey report allegedly from the Ministry of Lands.

The report, obtained by URN, purportedly delves into the status of Bugoma Forest but has faced staunch criticism from activists who point out discrepancies and inadequacies in its methodology, as well as a lack of definitive conclusions.

“We were dismayed to find that the report fails to provide conclusive evidence on whether Hoima Sugar encroached on Bugoma central forest reserve land. Instead, it relies on illegally obtained certificates of registration, an illegal environmental social impact assessment certificate, and a court judgment to conclude that Hoima Sugar Ltd is utilizing land leased to it by the Omukama of Bunyoro… without establishing whether that land falls within the Bugoma gazetted area,” a statement from the activists reads.

Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, spanning 41,144 hectares of protected land over 40 kilometers, stands as a vital ecological asset in Kikuube district.

However, discrepancies regarding its boundaries have emerged. The survey report indicates a computed area of 39,492.620 hectares, deviating by 1,651 hectares from the originally gazetted forest land area of 41,144 hectares. Unfortunately, the report fails to address this significant discrepancy.

During the survey, claims to portions of Bugoma Forest Reserve surfaced, totaling 28, with individuals asserting customary land ownership within the reserve. “Thirteen of them were verified by the Ministry of Lands, while others were submitted to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom,” the report states.

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Regarding the 5,779.7 hectares claimed by Hoima Sugar, the report notes a court judgment recognizing both the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar as lawful owners of the land.

Dickens Kamugisha, Chairperson of the Save Bugoma campaign and Executive Director at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), highlighted glaring omissions in the survey report. He questions the report’s failure to draw any conclusive findings regarding the initial instruction to conduct the survey, raising concerns about its integrity.

Kamugisha also questions how Bunyoro Kingdom awarded customary land titles within a gazetted forest reserve, emphasizing the need for clarity on this issue.

Expressing concern over the lack of transparency, Kamugisha insists on redoing the survey, advocating for the inclusion of independent experts and representation from local communities and civil society.

Meanwhile, Lalma Asasira, a resident neighboring the forest, emphasizes the need for government intervention to protect Bugoma Forest from destruction, citing past instances of irreversible damage to similar forests.

Godfrey Twesigye, Executive Director for Water & Environment Media Network Uganda, echoed concerns about the leaked report’s credibility, urging government intervention to address identified gaps.

The forest, home to diverse flora and fauna, plays a crucial role in conservation efforts and as a migratory corridor for wildlife. Efforts to preserve it remain paramount amid mounting threats.

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