Kalangala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is growing tension amongst residents encroaching on the Lutoboka Central Forest Reserve in Kalangala District as the National Forest Authority-NFA moves to evict them. The reserve covering 174 hectares of land, is now home to more than 400 residents.
The residents encroached on the forest reserve in Kalangala town with expectations that the government would degazzete it for human settlement.
The expectation was based on a request tabled before parliament in 2013 by then area Member of Parliament Fred Badda, demanding that Kalangala Town Council offers alternative land at Bunyama Island for the forest and degazete Lutoboka Central Forest Reserve for the expansion of Kalangala’s main town. The request was merged with requests from 23 other town councils in the country.
The Ministry of Water and Environment was tasked to verify whether all the requesting town councils had Environmental Impact Assessments and alternative land where forest reserves would be shifted. However, the government later indicated that the plans had been halted as many of the requesting town councils did not have alternative land for the forests.
Today, the National Forestry Authority issued directives that all those who had encroached on the Lutoboka Forest land should leave with immediate effect. The notice served to the area residents gave them until December 31, to vacate the land.
This left residents in panic, and many asking their leaders to plead with NFA to help them remain in the area until they get resources to relocate.
But the District Production and Natural Resources Officer Tadeo Mwesige observes a need to halt all activities done by the people in all forests so as to pave the way for environmental protection.
The eviction comes at a time when all the 31 forest reserves that makeup Kalangala District have been cut down through illegal lumbering and charcoal burning. The private forest reserves, especially on Bugala Island, have been cut down for Agriculture.
The District chairperson for Kalangala Willy Lugoloobi says, there is a need for a well-calibrated plan to have all those encroaching on the forest reserve relocated.