Monday, August 29, 2011

Uganda: Save Mabira forest

The Ugandan president wants to turn a protected forest into a sugar
plantation. Enviros and the World Bank and many MPs are fighting the
proposal. Two articles below. The forest was gazetted for protection
as part of the mitigation for Bujagali Dam on the Nile. It also
protects the dam's watershed.

Please sign a petition on this, hosted by the Ugandan group NAPE:

> World Bank wants Mabira kept intact Monday, 29th August, 2011

THE World Bank has written to the Government demanding commitment on
the agreement on promoting the conservation of Mabira Forest Reserve
for posterity.

The 2001 agreement ties down Mabira to conservation and was designed
as part of the mitigation measures to address the negative impacts of
building a hydro-electricity power dam at Bujagali.

Two weeks ago, President Yoweri Museveni said part of Mabira Forest
Reserve be allocated to Sugar Corporation of Lugazi (SCOUL) to expand
their sugar cane plantation.

This has resurrected the Mabira giveaway that was shelved four years
ago, following a demonstration in which an Indian national perished.
SCOUL is owned by Ugandan investors of Indian origin.

�We are in contact with our main interlocutor in Government - the
Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development - to seek
further clarification,� Steven Shalita, a senior communications
specialist at the World Bank, stated in a communication on August 19.

He said the Bank was not formally informed of the Government�s plan
to give away part of the forest.


Uganda resurrects plan to hand over protected forest to sugar company
Jeremy Hance
August 22, 2011

An environmental issue in Uganda that left three people dead four
years ago has reared its head again. The Ugandan government has
resurrected plans to give a quarter of the Mabira Forest Reserve to a
sugar cane corporation after dropping the idea in 2007 following large-
scale protests, including one that left many activists injured and
three dead. A pet project of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni the
plan would degazette 7,100 hectares of the 30,000 hectare Mabira
Forest Reserve for a sugarcane plantation to be run by the Indian-
owned company, Mehta Group. However the plan is being heavily attacked
by critics.

"All Ugandan's [...] know the economic, ecological, social and other
values of Mabira Forest Reserve. Each one of us who has attended
Primary school get to know Mabira Forest Reserve as one of our
Nation's heritage at the heart of Buganda Kingdom and Uganda," read a
statement from Ugandan civil societies that oppose the plan.

Located in the southern Uganda district of Buikwe, Mabira forest has
been under protection since 1932. The reserve is home to 312 species
of tree, 287 species of bird, and 199 species of butterfly. In
addition, the Ugandan gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae), a
monkey endemic to Uganda, has one of its most important populations in

According to critics of the plan, converting part of the rainforest
not only threatens important species, but could also imperil rainfall,
which is already declining in the area, and worsen soil erosion.
Burgeoning tourism efforts as well could take a hit. According to the
Ugandan civil societies, 60 percent of tourists who visit a forest
reserve in Uganda stop in Mabira.

To attempt to defuse the issue, MP Simon Wananzofu, has offered over
twice as much land for a sugar cane plantation under Mehta in a non
forested area.

"Mr President, there is a lot of outcry over Mabira, we don't want
you to die of pressure from the opposition. We have 50,000 acres of
fertile land and we have given it to you to save Mabira. Tell the
Indian sugar investors to come and start growing sugarcanes here,"
Wananzofu said as reported by the Daily Mirror.

However, President Museveni said he would take the offered land for
sugarcane—and Mabira forest as well.

Buganda Kingdom, an administrative district and historic kingdom in
central Uganda, has also offered land only to be turned away.

While the Ugandan government has argued that the sugarcane plantation
is necessary for jobs and development, a new study in Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences has found that living next to a
protected area actually improved the lives of poor Ugandans. The ten
year study found that communities living adjacent to Kibale National
Park in Uganda generally saw their prosperity—measured by access to
clean water, livestock, and housing quality—improve rather than

Ugandan civil societies argue that the Mabira Forest Reserve
represents a national treasure that is not for any president to give-

"To many of us, the struggle to save Mabira Forest Reserve is much
more than an economic, ecological or emotional struggle. It is about
our present and future as a nation. It is about respect for our
national heritage, our constitution and respect for our environmental
laws. This is why we call upon all Ugandan's of good will to
categorically reject the current maneuvers by the President to
degazette and donate to Mehta part of Mabira Forest Reserve," their
statement reads.

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