Tree planting crucial as oil activities intensify – UNOC

A forest destroyed for agricultural practices in Kibaale District. (Image: File)

Kabaale Industrial Park (KIP) – a Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) project in Hoima district and Buyaga Dam Central Forest Reserve in Kagadi district, Bunyoro region are some of the areas in Uganda where trees will be planted in a campaign aimed at making them green.

According to UNOC, the initiative follows the destruction of trees partly due to people’s need for agricultural land, widespread energy poverty and lack of efficient and affordable energy in the country.

The initiative dubbed UNOC Go Green Campaign will see 40 million trees planted countrywide in a span of five to seven years.

With the campaign having kicked off recently at Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) in Kiryandongo district where more than 100 trees were planted, UNOC – one of the key players in the oil and gas sub-sector says various tree species will be planted in other areas depending on the extent of deforestation, area and the type of soil.

The initiative that will involve 36,950 hectares comprising natural forest restoration and private plantations among others will also see trees planted in Taala Central Forest Reserve in Kyankwanzi district which is the only forest reserve traversed by the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that will run from Hoima district to Tanzania, Kazooba Forest Reserve in Sembabule district and Mabira forest enclaves.

UNOC says trees will also be planted in West Nile, road corridors and private land with an anticipation that at the zenith of project implementation, they will facilitate ensuring carbon neutrality striking a balance between gas emissions and natural capture.

“Trees remain a key feature of our surrounding, utilising carbon dioxide for nutrition purposes in a process called photosynthesis. This natural capture of carbon dioxide helps to, among others, reduce the gas, which creates a layer that traps heat near the earth’s surface.” UNOC says.

Adding: “Without the natural extraction by trees, and activities lacking mitigation measures, carbon dioxide would increase leading to undesirable global warming and the attendant consequences. Additionally, trees (forests) are vital catchment areas ensuring availability of water for agricultural production and are habits for forest wildlife.”

As trees are cut down and chopped into firewood or burnt in kilns into charcoal burning, challenges are exacerbated as charcoal burning emits carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas particularly indoors.

“This highlights commitment to sustainability and environment protection while addressing economic and energy needs with potential emissions from key oil and gas projects being minimal. Noteworthy, is that UNOC’s partners including TotalEnergies have unveiled and committed to a comprehensive biodiversity plan to ensure protection of flora and fauna in ‘sensitive’ ecosystems,” UNOC continues.

Uganda’s oil company reveals that discussions with potential partners like the Church of Uganda (COU) have been initiated including the UNOC Chief Executive Officer, Ms Proscovia Nabbanja, meeting Archbishop Dr Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, to discuss the project.

According to the archbishop, the presence of the COU countrywide, authority and land would facilitate buy-in and the partnership’s subsequent success with UNOC saying more partners are expected to come on board soon.

Statistics

Seven in every 10 households in Uganda (73%) use firewood for cooking while two in every 10 households (21%) use charcoal.

Combined, biomass fuels (firewood and charcoal) constitute the main fuel for cooking in 94% of the households, according to the Uganda National Household Survey 2019/2020 Report.

According to the National State of Environment Report 2018-2019, forest cover in Uganda has been declining from 23.8% (4.8 million hectares) in 1990 to about 9.9% (2 million hectares) in 2017.

“Natural forests have experienced a decline in the past decades while plantation forest has registered an increment between 2010 and 2017 from 3% to 8%,” reads the report, adding, “overall decline in forest cover has also been halted and, for the first time since 1990, a net forest gain has been recorded.

Sustainable Development Goal

It is this report that prompted UNOC to launch the UNOC Go Green Campaign in accordance with goal number 13 (Climate Action) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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