State Minister for Environment, Ms Beatrice Atim Anywar, has called for the blacklisting of Hoima Sugar Limited for its central controversy of the giveaway of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR) for sugarcane growing.
The minister wonders how Hoima Sugar Limited which is bent on pushing its business interests at the expense of environment can be permitted to continue with its activities.
It is against this backdrop that Ms Anywar calls on Ugandans to resist this as she engages the company and Bunyoro Kingdom over the matter.
On Monday last week, the minister joined eight European Union (EU) ambassadors on their four-day joint mission in western and northern Uganda to evaluate and discuss environmental conservation issues in the country.
Led by the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the officials began with a meeting with environmental activists at Jungle Hotel near Bugoma CFR.
However, officials of Hoima Sugar Limited snubbed the engagement.
Later, the Hoima Sugar Limited agriculture manager, Mr Rajasekaran Ramadoss, told Kazi-njema News that they were never invited.
He said the letter from the EU only requested for a factory visit which would not be possible due to the ongoing expansion and maintenance works there hastening to add that the company officials would be glad to welcome the EU ambassadors when the factory is running after maintenance.
“We got a communication from the Hon. Ambassadors just one day before their planned visit. Due to the ongoing expansion and maintenance work, we were not able to accommodate them. There is a big construction activity going on amidst the huge machineries. We were not able to arrange for a factory visit within this short notice. We would be glad to welcome them when the factory is running after maintenance”, said Mr Rajasekaran.
Asked what the government position was in regard to the status of the forest, Ms 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 her, her ministry staffs together with those from the Ministry of Lands were this week embarking on a joint boundary opening for the forest to ascertain how titles were issued.
She also said that they are looking at reshuffling the enforcement team at the forest adding that those that were deployed to guard the forest are instead looking on as illegal activities take place.
Bugoma forest is habitat to over 600 chimpanzees.
It is a migratory corridor for large mammals like elephants.
The forest has been attacked by loggers and sugarcane planters after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) cleared Hoima Sugar Limited to plant sugarcane on the part of the forestland.
Bugoma was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932.
It is a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert where oil has been discovered.
The forest is also expected to provide a sink for waste gases during oil mining.