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Blacklist Hoima Sugar, Minister Demands

Bugoma forest, which is habitat to over 600 chimpanzees and a migratory corridor for large mammals like elephants, has been under attack by criminal 'individual' loggers and sugar cane planters after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to plant cane on part of the forestland.
The EU Head of Delegation Ambassador Attilio Pacifici with the Minister of State for Environment Beatrice Anywar at the Jungle Lodge in Bugoma Forest

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The Minister of State for Environment, Beatrice Anywar has called for the blacklisting of Hoima Sugar Limited, the company at the center of the controversial giveaway of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve for Sugarcane growing.

Anywar wondered how the company which is bent on pushing its  business interests at the cost of the country’s environment can be allowed to go on. She called on all citizens to resist this while she engages the company and  Bunyoro Kingdom over the matter

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The Minister on Monday joined eight European Union (EU) Ambassadors who started a four-day joint mission in Western and Northern Uganda to assess and discuss environmental conservation matters in the country. 

The diplomats led by the EU Head of Delegation Ambassador Attilio Pacifici started off with a meeting with environment activists at the Jungle Lodge in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima. However the Hoima Sugar company officials have reportedly snubbed Ambassador Pacifici's attempts to engage them.

Bugoma forest, which is habitat to over 600 chimpanzees and a migratory corridor for large mammals like elephants, has been  under attack by criminal 'individual' loggers and sugar cane planters after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to plant cane on part of the forestland.

Gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932, Bugoma is a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert where oil has been discovered and it is also expected to provide a sink for waste gases during oil mining.

 

Asked what the government position was in regard to the status of the forest, Anywar cited a recent Cabinet resolution saying that it contained a directive stopping any tree cutting activities in the forest reserve also noting that there was need for the land ownership battle before court to be completed.

According to the Minister, her Ministry staff together with those from the Ministry of Lands are next week embarking on a joint boundary opening for the forest to ascertain how titles were issued.

She also noted that they are looking at reshuffling the enforcement team at the forest saying that those that were deployed to guard the forest, are instead watching on as illegal activities are taking place.

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Tom Okello, the Executive Director National Forestry Authority (NFA), notes that  20 hectares of the forest land has so far been converted to sugarcane growing amid claims that the area is a grassland. The cleared land is out of the 21.54 Square Kilometers that were leased to Hoima Sugar Limited for planting sugarcane.

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Asked about the reported illegal logging of trees from the forest and ferried by trucks, Okello ruled out organized logging, describing what is happening is individual illegal logging.

“The boundary of Bugoma is 177 kilometers…what we call a cutline, that is the boundary," said Okello. How do you effectively patrol the 177 kilometers? It is almost impossible, it is like poaching in a National Park, you cannot stop it, you manage. So, organized illegal logging is not there but where somebody goes and steals a tree, that is possible.”

Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the EU Head of Delegation revealed that officials from Hoima Sugar Limited had declined to interact with them over the matter. He said that their joint mission is to basically find solutions to the controversy but not to point fingers. 

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The EU Heads of Mission are scheduled to interface with the Bunyoro Kingdom officials on Tuesday over the forest. They led by Ambassador Pacifici and include the French Ambassador Jules-Armand Aniambossou, Belgium Ambassador Veestraeten Rudi, Germany Ambassador Mathias Schauer, Italian Ambassador Massimiliano Mazzanti and others.

The others are the Ambassador of Sweden Per Lindgarde, Ambassador of Denmark Nicolaj Hejberg Petersen and the Austria Head of Office Dr. Roswitha Kremser.            

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