LEAVE MABIRA ALONE CONSERVATION FRATERNITY TELLS PRESIDENT
(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)
Media reports in Uganda suggest that President Museveni, while addressing a retreat of members of parliament a few days ago, appears to have raised the issue of the Mabira Forest give away again, reopening, if correct, a long standing saga. Opposed by civil society, conservation groups and thought to be broadly illegal anyway as the government has entered into a deal with the World Bank to leave Mabira intact, in turn for financing the Bujagali hydro power plant the story has raised opposition once again in radio phone in programmes with unusual candour while at least one daily paper has made the story the centre piece of its web edition. (http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Mabira–Activists-dare-Museveni/-/688334/1665636/-/f7p93r/-/index.html). Subsequently have a number of individuals already stood up publicly opposing any attempts to revive the giveaway idea and vowed to use all legal means to prevent that from ever happening.
The Mabira Forest is understood, by all with some level of understanding of environmental mechanics, to be the green lung of Kampala, where greenhouse gases are emitted as if there is no tomorrow, with no catalytic converters mandatory in vehicles to reduce green house gases besides greenhouse gas spewing industrial plants. Mabira plays a major role in absorbing those emissions besides acting as a crucial water tower for the country and plans to convert a quarter of the forest into a sugar cane plantation border the ludicrous.
Having written main feature articles on forests in the region, including Mabira, in recent years, it is clear that the forest is a major resource for clean air and fresh water, has the potential for a wide array of medicinal plants and related research and of course supports eco tourism, now centered around the RainForest Lodge and a community centre which offers basic but clean accommodation at the starting point of several forest trails.
In comparison has Rwanda a strict policy to protect forests and increase forest cover to 30 percent by 2020, up from the present 23+ percent, fully appreciating and understanding the role of the forests in the future survival of mankind.
Media reports have suggested that bringing up Mabira is a mere smokescreen to divert from more pressing problems the ruling party has with rebel members of parliament who have raised a number of issues vis a vis the executive they are in disagreement with and want answers for. Should that be so, Mabira is the worst possible choice though since this forest can truly be called the life line for future generations in Uganda, important enough to protect it and nurture it and not dissect it for short lived profit, something the sugar company has singularly failed to declare for ages. The other predictable outcome of this all is that Uganda has again gone into the environmental bad books in an instant at a time when promoting tourism – National Geographic has named Uganda as the must visit country of 2013 – should showcase a broad range of conservation measures and not once again get into the headlines by proposing the exact opposite. Mabira must not die – just like the Serengeti must not die, both cases today as relevant and pertinent as ever before. Watch this space.