Most Ugandan MP’s oppose plan to destroy Mabira forest

This is a Mabira forest video.

Reuters reports:

Ugandan MPs oppose president’s plan to raze forest

Sunday April 22, 12:05 AM

KAMPALA – Eighty percent of Uganda’s parliamentarians, most from President Yoweri Museveni’s own party, oppose his plan to convert a chunk of rainforest to sugarcane, the state-owned New Vision daily said on Saturday.

A survey of 200 out of 332 parliamentarians showed four-fifths were against the controversial plan to raze 7,100 hectares (17,540 acres) of Mabira Forest, a nature reserve since 1932, and give the land to the privately owned Mehta Group‘s sugar estate, the newspaper said.

Analysts say Museveni has rarely faced such opposition over policy in the history of his two-decade presidency.

“Even members of the majority National Resistance Movement (Musveni’s party) were solidly against the proposal, with 72 percent saying they would vote No,” the New Vision reported. …

Critics say razing part of Mabira could destroy a fragile environment, sparking soil erosion and silting, drying up the climate, hurting nearby agriculture and removing a crucial buffer against pollution of Lake Victoria. …

Normally a staunchly pro-government paper, the New Vision has repeatedly come out against the Mabira plan — leaking sensitive cabinet documents on it and publishing fiery columns condemning it, many written by Museveni’s closest aides.

“(It is) against the majority wishes and passions of his electorate,” close Museveni advisor John Nagenda wrote on Saturday.

“Would you even consider feeding this irreplaceable Ugandan treasure to the insatiable stomach (of Mehta)?”

Cabinet will vote on the proposal in the coming weeks.

3 thoughts on “Most Ugandan MP’s oppose plan to destroy Mabira forest

  1. Uganda: Asians Oppose Mabira Central Reserve Giveaway

    The Monitor (Kampala)

    May 2, 2007
    Posted to the web May 1, 2007

    Sanjay Tanna

    As a Ugandan of Asian origin and a Member of Parliament representing Tororo Municipality, I have been forced to come out on the Mabira Forest question – whether it should be given to Mehta and turned into a sugarcane plantation or whether it should be preserved.

    I am on record for having taken the stand that trees are better than shrubs (sugarcane), both on KFM and Rock FM Tororo, and that as human beings, we need Mabira Forest more than we need sugarcane. And it is this stand that I am now reaffirming.

    As a businessman, I appreciate that this country’s tax base needs to be widened, we need more jobs, and we have to do everything to stop the importation of sugar. Large-scale agriculture needs to be encouraged, but then at what cost? I propose that we use the out-growers, and not Mehta, because of their record in relation to payments remitted to the government. And that, Mehta should renew tenancy agreements with the tenants whose land he has been renting.

    The reasons why I am opposed to the Mabira Forest giveaway are basically environmental, but also moral. It is my considered view that our environment, to which Mabira Forest is key to its stability, should be preserved at all costs. Mabira Forest is a water catchment area for Lakes Victoria and Kyoga. Secondly, it serves as an absorbent of all the Carbon dioxide that is daily emitted from the many industries, the cars and human beings from the Kampala and Jinja region. This not only helps in providing us with much needed oxygen but also with keeping our environment cool.

    Mabira Forest is very crucial in the rain cycle of our nation and in agriculture production therefore. Every farmer or dependent of farming should naturally be its biggest ally.

    Without Mabira Forest, our power crisis will only deepen since the low water levels will decrease the more.

    This could be worsened by the need for us to turn to irrigation – hastening the death of the world’s second largest inland lake–Victoria

    Without Mabira Forest, Kampala can only get hotter and yes, we may have to deal with the greater evil of smog. Yes, without Mabira Forest, the globe can only get warmer since scientists have proved that forests are the best defense against global warming.

    I know some people argue that we have a right to cut down our forests for development since the West did the same to develop and that the only way we can preserve them is if they compensated us or paid us to keep the forests in place.

    But then two wrongs have never made a right. If the West blundered, we shouldn’t repeat the same mistake. It is foolhardy to blackmail them using the lives of our children as a bargaining chip. We have a duty to preserve Uganda, even if the rest of the world is turning into a desert – or even if it is profitable to become a desert!

    Without Mabira Forest, the desert may be knocking on our doors, since it has been proved that trees are the best defense against deserts. (Uganda is ranked 3rd worldwide in deforestation, 2.5% per annum, meaning that in 50 years we won’t have a forest if the trend is not arrested.) In fact the giveaway of Mabira contradicts government policy of reforestation – every family in Uganda planting a tree.

    Without Mabira Forest, there is no sustainable development. Our children will suffer in the future and the longevity of agriculture-based industries will be shortened!

    The New Vision of March 27, 2007 reported “The damage of cutting away part of Mabira Forest in terms of carbon credit is estimated at $316m. The value of the land is estimated at about $5m and the value of the wood at another $568m.

    That means the Ugandan public stands to lose almost $890m (about 1.5 trillion shillings) as a result of the Government’s plan to degazette part of the forest.” The government of Uganda owns 51% of Scoul and therefore is the major beneficiary of the deal at the same time the victim of the 1.5 trillion shilling loss. Scientists inform us that the average temperature in Uganda has gone up by 2% in the last 15 years. Thus, the long term loses far out weigh any short-term gains in a business sense.

    And this brings me to the debate in question, how the Mabira Forest question has been racialised. The Indian Association of Uganda, most Ugandans of Asian origin I know of, are not supportive of the Mehta bid. Most of them are bitterly opposed to it for the above reasons.

    Daily Monitor reported that “all the Indian Associations in Uganda disassociated themselves from Mehta.” It is therefore absurd that during the supposedly peaceful demonstration against the give away of Mabira Forest, a section of the Ugandan public were targeted resulting in the tragic deaths of three Ugandans?

    Why should Asians be targeted indiscriminately when we all know that the Uganda government and the Mehta family jointly own Scoul? Was there a hidden agenda of targeting Asians by some hooligans prior to the demonstration? Was the cause of the violence business rivalry hidden and garbed under a racial veil? What has the violence got to do with Ugandans of Asian origins? These are the many questions that have been besieging my mind from the day the demonstration turned tragic.

    The danger of what happened last week is that we may be diverted from the substance of the debate – the giveaway of Mabira Forest and the irreversible consequences to the environment. We should not look at the Mabira Forest giveaway in racial eyes, neither should we look at in political eyes – we should look at it in terms of the environment and the consequences that will befall us as human beings.

    Copyright © 2007 The Monitor.


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