RUBANDA- Conservationists and local residents in Rubanda District have criticised the ongoing activities of cutting down trees in the Echuya natural forest by the National Forestry Authority (NFA).
The environmentalists argue that the acts have degraded the natural ecosystem and interfered with the natural habitats of more than 500 bird and dozens of monkey species that are a great tourist attraction.
The executive director of Nature Uganda, a local conservation organisation that has been involved in conserving Echuya natural forest, Mr Achilles Byaruhanga, criticises the move by NFA without doing an Environmental Impact Assessment.
“How can National Forestry Authority, a government entity that is supposed to protect and conserve natural forests, be the one involved in degrading them well aware about the adverse effects that could come out of it? How can they cut down a natural forest in disguise of liberating the bamboo forest without doing Environmental Impact Assessment? Such acts are destroying the natural habitat of highly endangered bird species such as the Grauers Rush Warbler and other animals,” he said.
He adds that Echuya forest has just recovered from the 1990s degradation where local people had turned it into gardens and dairy farms.
Interfering with the natural ecosystems of Echuya forest reserve means interfering with the source of water that feeds the people in the neighbouring sub-counties of Rubanda and Kisoro districts.
Failure to consult
The LC3 chairman for Kanaba Sub-county in Kisoro District, Mr Joseph Nizeyi, also blames NFA over failure to consult the local leaders before they embarked on cutting down the trees. He says the displaced birds and other wild animals, especially baboons and monkeys might resort to raiding gardens now that their habitat and source of food has been destroyed.
“Communities neighbouring this forest shall also get problems of water shortage because that may result in the drying up of water sources.
Officials of NFA should have consulted us as local leaders and as main stakeholders that have been involved in conserving this forest despite the pressure from greedy investors who wanted it degraded,” Mr Nizeyi says.
But the director for plantations at NFA, Mr David Mununuzi, says cutting the vegetation in the Echuya natural forest reserve is aimed at liberating and tending the bamboo trees for quick multiplication for economic benefits for the government and the communities in the area.
He adds that the liberation and tending of the Bamboo trees is expected to take about 300 hectares of the natural forest that measures about 3,400 hectares.
“We are piloting the process of liberating and tending bamboo trees in Echuya forest to make it better for economic benefits for the government and the communities around. We are targeting to cut the vegetation in an area of about 300 to allow quick multiplication because the vegetation under the bamboo trees have been hindering its quick multiplication.
There is no need of Environmental Impact Assessment because such activities were done in China and Rwanda and the results were so good,” Mr Mununuzi says.
He says they are being funded by the International Bamboo and Rattan organisation from China and some NFA officials had study tours in China and they were trained on how to handle the matter without disorganising the biodiversity.