Uganda to import firewood in 10 years

Part of the 40,000 acres of forest land

in Kalangala District the government

sold to BIDCO to grow palm trees.


Benon Herbert Oluka


Ugandans are degrading the environment
so fast that we could start importing firewood
within the next 10 years if deforestation
is not checked, a new report prepared
by the Ministry of Water and Environment warns.

Released early this month, the 2009 Water
and Environment Sector Performance Report
also contains a worrying admission by
the Water Ministry that sector watchdogs
do not have the capacity to stem
the unrelenting degradation of the environment.

With 91 per cent of the total energy used
being derived from biomass, which includes
firewood and charcoal, the Ministry warns that,
the pressure on forests and woodlands
could easily wipe out their capacity
to provide the resource.

"At the present rate of deforestation,
it is predicted that Uganda is likely
to be importing fuel wood by 2020,"
says the report, which also notes that over
the 15 years from 1990, Uganda's woodland
cover declined from 16.5 per cent to 11.5
per cent of the total land area.

Over the same period, total forest cover
reduced by 27 per cent, according to the report.
It adds that some districts have experienced
extensive loss of forest cover; for example
Mayuge District has lost all of its forests.

Previous studies have warned that Uganda
could lose all its forest cover
in the next 30 years if no effort is made
to reduce the level of deforestation.

Internal problems

The Ministry argues that it will not be able
to turn around the downward spiral unless
efforts are made to solve inherent problems
plaguing government entities set up
to oversee activities in the environment sector.

"The Ministry of Water and Environment,
National Environmental Management Authority
(Nema) and National Forest Authority (NFA)
are mandated to protect, manage
and restore the environment.
However, in reality they are struggling
to keep up with the demands," says the report,
signed by Minister Maria Mutagamba.

"The government does not treat deforestation
and forest degradation as an urgent problem
that needs priority attention.
Weak institutional capacities contribute
to this degradation by failing
to measure up to their mandate," it adds.

According to the report, chief among the problems
facing the sector is continued decline
in the allocations from the government's
annual budget. For instance, while the sector
was allocated 7.4 per cent of
the national budget in the 2003/04 financial year,
it had dropped by more than
half to 3 per cent in 2008/09.

"This reflects less prioritisation of
the sub sector over the period despite
the fact that there is concern that funding
levels are insufficient to meet
the national PEAP [Poverty Eradication
Action Plan] targets," the report notes.

It further laments that the development
of sector institutions, as well as funding,
at local government level is
so inadequate that it hampers
the achievement of national targets.

"In spite of decentralisation, there is
inadequate funding and human resources
at lower local governments to deal
with environmental issues,"
explains the report,
adding: "The sometimes contradicting
policies and laws with respect to
the environment render it difficult
for the lead institutions to fulfil their mandates."

The report recommends a review
of existing policies and revision
of the legislation on environmental
management to improve
the effectiveness of entities
that regulate activities in the sector.

It also recommends increase
in funding to the sector
and reinstatement of
the conditional grants for forests at district level.

"There is need for acceleration
of operationalisation of the tree fund
and to establish energy plantations
and woodlots to sustain Uganda's energy needs,"
says the report.
"Technologies for the efficient processing
and utilisation of woody biomass
also need to be developed."

Minister Mutagamba, however,
contends that her ministry can still
achieve its objectives, despite the challenges.
"These challenges can be overcome
through capacity development,
improved support and additional resources
for the sector, as well as using
what we already have in a more
efficient and effective manner," she said.

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

No comments:

Post a Comment