Lawmakers want the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to be audited on the loss of forest cover in the country.
They accuse the forestry agency of defending activities that have led to deforestation, contrary to their mandate to promote tree planting.
This was during the debate on the Climate Change Committee’s report on a motion for a Parliament resolution urging the government to tackle climate change.
The report was presented by the Vice-Chair of the Climate Change Commission, Hon. Jacinta Atuto, during the plenary session on Tuesday September 13, 2022 chaired by Vice-President Thomas Tayebwa.
The report recommended the reopening of forest boundaries and the cancellation of titles issued in classified forest lands.
“The government should provide incentives to encourage the public to plant trees,” the report reads in part.
Hon. Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, (NUP, Butambala County), however, said that if people want to engage in tree planting, the NFA, on the other hand, gives people permits to cut down trees under the guise of investments.
“We should focus on protecting existing forests first. The NFA should be audited for value for money on the forests that have been logged,” Muwanga Kivumbi said.
MP for Buikwe South County, Hon. Michael Bayigga, asked for permission to move a motion on diminishing forest cover, saying there is a deliberate move to cut down forests.
“Very many forests are cut down under the pretext of planting new trees. An example is the Kifu forest in Mukono which has been completely cut down,” he said.
Hon. William Museveni (INDP., Buwekula South County) called for the enactment of a law that requires every Ugandan to plant trees.
“It should be compulsory for every Ugandan to plant at least ten trees a year. We are losing forest cover due to human activities,” he said.
Hon. Irene Muloni (NRM, Bulambuli District) called for urgent restoration of forest cover in the Elgon region, saying recurrent flooding and landslides are the result of declining forest cover.
“Nature fights back. We urgently need to move people and let the trees occupy their natural space,” Muloni said.
Female MP for Pakwach District, Hon. Jane Avur, however, warned against evicting people from forest reserves that are not gazetted or demarcated, saying some people have lived in these areas for over 40 years and their eviction would cause conflict.
“There are unknown forest reserves where people have lived for a long time. The government must follow the processes for relocating these people according to the law,” Avur said.
The committee’s report further recommends tough penalties for people who acquire land in wetlands and ensure that degraded wetlands are reclaimed.
“The government should act on Parliament’s recommendation to cancel all land titles issued on the Gazette Wetlands,” the report read in part.
Hon. Silas Aogon (INDP., Kumi Municipality) suggested an annual tax of Shs 200 million to deter people from encroaching on wetlands.
“Those who inherited the wetlands and have lived there for many years should be relocated with alternative livelihoods. They should be given start-up capital,” Aogon said.
Hon. Ibanda Rwemulikya (INDP., Ntoroko County) criticized the National Environment Management Authority for selectively applying the law to those encroaching on wetlands.
“There is corruption, the poor are driven out of the wetlands while the rich are given titles to build in the wetlands. Why are the laws selectively enforced? asked Rwemulikya.
Hon. Bosco Okiror (NRM, Usuk County) warned that the lack of will to implement climate change laws will only make the problem worse.
“If we don’t address climate change in our generation, it will destroy Uganda. I call for proper implementation of the laws,” Okiror said.
Female MP for Adjumani District, Hon. Jesca Ababiku, said that while Ugandans are ready to act on climate change, the government is not consistent in implementing the climate change law.
Transport and Works Minister General Edward Katumba Wamala reassured the House of plans to plant trees along all major new roads being constructed as a means of reforestation.
“We must continue to sensitize our people to stop cutting down trees,” said Katumba Wamala.
The Minister of State for Water and Environment (Environment), Hon. Beatrice Anywar, said the ministry will soon be tabling regulations to operationalize the Climate Change Act 2022 and this, she said, will go a long way in restoring the degraded environment.
“A committee is already in place and I can say that it has done 30% of its work so far. The work however was halted during the COVID-19 pandemic where the budget was cut and this slowed down the process,” Anywar said.
She added that the cabinet passed the 10-year restoration program which restored the National Environment Fund and will see the environment police supported by the Uganda People’s Defense Force to enforce environmental laws. environment.
“Once we have the fund in place, we are going to do a lot more and that will include opening up the boundaries of forest reserves. We must protect the environment if we want to have sustainable development. Nature speaks and we must listen,” Anywar said.