Environmental activists who were arrested by Uganda police in September this year in Hoima city Western Uganda over the “Save Bugoma Forest campaign” have vowed to die fighting to save the forest.
David Kureeba, the Officer in Forestry and Biodiversity, at National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE says if government does not safeguard the forest and stop deforestations, they will run to courts of law.
Mr. Kureeba, who appeared on Community Green Radio on September 18 said NAPE and other environmentalists are to sue Hoima Sugar Limited, NEEMA and the government over the destruction of the forest.
“It is unfortunate that the police are arresting activists who are advocating to save Bugoma Forest instead of arresting those behind the cutting down of the natural resource. We shall take this battle to courts of law. We can’t allow the forest to just go”, Kureeba said.
NAPE and other conservation activists are still battling in court after they dragged National Environment Management Authority –NEMA for giving out a certificate to Hoima Sugar limited for sugarcane growing.
Two Environmental Journalists who were arrested by Uganda police for allegedly organising a demonstration have also vowed to fight on. The two are Joshua Mutale and Venex Watebawa from the Water and Environment Media Network Uganda (WEMNET).
Mr. Watebawa says they were arrested and detained when they had gone to seek for protection from police to have a peaceful protest against the leasing of the forest reserve by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom to Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane growing. He, however said their arrest and detention will not stop them from the campaign.
“We went to seek for permission from the Officer in-charge at Hoima Police station to be able to peacefully protest the giveaway of the forest that is reportedly being cleared by the sugar company but we were instead arrested and detained. Now that we are out, we are going to continue to fight to save the forest,” Watebawa narrated.
Following the rise in water levels that have left many displaced in Uganda, Mr. Frank Muramuzi, the Executive Director National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE is appealing to people residing and working close to environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas to vacate voluntarily.
While speaking to Community Green radio early this month, Mr. Muramuzi said continued human activity along ecologically sensitive areas does not only pose danger to the environment but to human life as well.
“I appeal to the community to promote, protect the environment and leave the wetlands willingly before the presidential directive in regard to these areas is forcefully implemented,’’ cautioned Mr. Muramuzi.
Mr. Muramuzi also took a swipe at big business people, locally referred as investors for continuously reclaiming swamps and wetlands for development. He explained that these business people get approval from government agencies like the National Environmental Management Authority, NEMA to operate in wetlands and swamps.
“NEMA has issued licences to investors who are carrying out developments in wetlands and swamps. We call on government to desist from sanctioning such developments in environmentally sensitive area,’’ he said.
Mr. Muramuzi also noted that the construction of dams on major water bodies have become a threat to the flow of water; a reason NAPE strongly opposes the construction of dams.
Mr. Muramuzi believes the rising water levels currently experienced are as a result of degradation and encroachment of wetlands and forests for cultivation.
This year, Ugandan minister of state for Energy and Mineral Development Mary Gorreti Kitutu warned that the residents around Lake Kyoga would be affected since Karuma dam was releasing 950 cubic meters per second and the entire water was going to the lake.
Water levels for major water bodies across Uganda have gone up in recent months from 12.00 meters in 2019 to above 13.4 meters, in the case of Lake Victoria, a mark last recorded in 1964, while Lake Kyoga is projected to exceed the highest historical water level of 13.2 meters.
This has led to submerging shorelines, swamps and flood plains, displacing thousands of people and flooding infrastructure.
More than 9, 000 people have been displaced by the rising water levels of Lake Kyoga in Nakasongola district,central Uganda. Others have been displaced in Masaka, Buvuma, Mayuge, Jinja and Wakiso districts by the surge of water volume in Lake Victoria. People in Ntoroko District in Western Uganda have also been displaced by increased water volumes in Lake Albert.
The NAPE Community Green radio has received the 2020 Liz Hughes award for her Farm Radio at a function held at the radio premises in Kiboga. Green radio won the award after beating other 59 radio stations worldwide. The award was handed over by Mr. Ecaat Stephen the Country Representative Farm Radio International to the NAPE Executive Director Frank Muramuzi and the radio staff on March 8th.
While receiving the award, Mr. Muramuzi thanked Farm Radio International for recognizing the efforts of the radio in promoting women. He promised more empowerment to women.
“We are so delighted that finally our efforts in amplifying the voices of women have been rewarded. We shall continue to give wider space to women to air their views”, Mr. Muramuzi said.
In his remarks, Mr. Ecaat said the radio won the award because they devote enough time to women issues.
“What made you stand out was the huge amount of time you give to women to discuss their issues. You have also allowed women to speak for themselves on radio”, he said.
Israel Yiga, the Kiboga District chairperson praised the radio for giving ample time to programs that address women issues.
“I have been listening to this radio and following the time they accord to women issues, this award is not a surprise to me. I implore them to continue promoting women issues”, the chairperson explained.
The award giving ceremony coincided with the International women’s day. The function was attended by local leaders and the radio listeners predominantly women.
Community Green Radio is one of the major programs of National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).The radio is an offshoot of the sustainability of the Sustainability School Program which works on empowering communities to identify their rights and entitlements and works towards attaining and defending them.
The radio is aimed at amplifying the voices of local communities in the eco-sensitive Bunyoro and Buganda Regions to effectively participate in natural resource management processes.
The Liz Hughes award was created by Farm Radio International to recognize radio programs that address the issue of gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women. Liz Hughes was a board member of Farm Radio International who was passionate about broadcasting and a champion of gender equality. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcaster helped Farm Radio International to develop its FAIR journalistic standards, which emphasize Fairness and balance, Accuracy, Integrity, and Respect.