A plan to clear 7,000 hectares, almost a third of the Mabira forest, home to hundreds of rare species and a nature reserve since 1932, to expand a sugar estate owned by the local Mehta Group is turning into an environmental dilemma in Uganda.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose aim is to increasingly industrialize the country, ordered a feasibility study on the project in August, a decision that annoyed members of parliament, Mabira residents and officials at the National Forest Authority (NFA).
According to a study by the latter organization, destruction of part of the forest would trigger enormous ecological and economic losses, endangering 312 species of tree, 287 species of bird and 199 species of butterfly, while jeopardizing eco-tourism, Uganda’s main source of tourist revenue.
For its part, the Ugandan government claims that the extra employment provided by the sugar estate would outweigh the disadvantages. ‘Many Ugandans work on sugar plantations whose families depend on sugar,’ commented President Museveni’s press secretary, Tamale Mirundi. ‘We must produce cheaper sugar because competition is tough’.
However, speaking at a National Forest Authority workshop in Fort Portal on Friday, Salvatoris Byarugaba, the Commissioner of Forest Inspection at the Ministry of Lands, Water and Environment said that future of Uganda’s food supply will be if Forest Reserves are not protected.
The Monitor (Kampala)