Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has revealed that she is frustrated by the Ministry of Finance for failing to finance the Tree Fund enacted under the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003.
Kadaga says that it is sickening that 16 years after passing the Act, the Finance Ministry is yet to allocate money under the Fund to enable vigorous replacement of trees that have been cut. The Tree Fund is provided for under Section 40 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003.
The Speaker was today flagging off a relay at parliament dubbed ‘Running Out of Trees’ organised by Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL and meant to raise awareness of the state of Uganda’s nearly depleted forest cover and signal action by citizens.
National Forestry Authority (NFA) statistics indicate that Uganda lost 2.4 million hectares of forest cover between 1990 and 2015, translating to an annual loss of 96,000 hectares. In the same period, the forest estate outside protected areas is said to have reduced from 68 percent of the total forest land in 1990 to 38 percent in 2015, meaning that almost half of the non-gazetted forests were cleared in just 25 years.
The Speaker of Parliament says that the Fund was envisaged to be one of government’s initiatives to promote tree planting and conserving the environment at the national level. She wondered why the Finance Ministry is not taking the matter seriously to allocate money to the Tree Fund.
The Kampala – Gulu 330 Kilometer relay campaign is spearheaded by Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) in partnership with Ministry of Water and Environment, Parliament of Uganda, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Stanbic Bank, Total Uganda, Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), New Vision and others.
Planned to continue for the next 5 years, the partners envisage contributing to the restoration of 40 million trees every year.
Kadaga said that the choice of planting trees in Gulu this year was commendable since the area is dominated by charcoal burning which does not favor conservation of trees.
She tasked the Minister of State for Water Ronald Kibuule to ensure that his ministry sets an action plan like in other countries where declarations on tree planting have been made.
“I wish we could emulate what Ethiopia has done. They declared that each year they plant 10 million trees and now they have over a 120 million trees. They just decided this is what we are going to do for this decade, so my Minister you better set an action plan so that we know where we are heading,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker said that there is need to make use of every opportunity and gatherings in communities for people to plant trees since this can help solve the climate calamities that the country has started experiencing.
Japheth Katto,Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) Board Chair said that there is a huge loss for something that contributes significantly to the biodiversity of the country and the region.
“It is so severe that if we do not do something about it, in the next 10 years there will be no single tree left. Can you imagine Uganda without trees? Something must be done by all of us leaving on this planet and especially those living in Uganda so that we save our forests,” said
He said that they have choose the run using the Kampala-Gulu High Way since it is the most impacted by deforestation and therefore a strategic area to start the campaign.
Andrew Kitaka, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Acting Executive Director said that the tree planting campaign was very important since the impact of climate change is already manifesting in various hazards like flooding and heat waves.
“Our rainfall patterns have become hepatic and more intense and near surfaced temperatures are estimated to have increased by 1.5 degrees between 1950 and 2005 and they are also projected to rise further by between 1.5 degrees and 3 degrees by the end of the century. This is clearly a very big challenge for us; in fact we may have to rewrite the geography books. The rainfall patterns we knew in our primary school are no longer valid, said Kitaka.
He said that the population also is rising very first and that this is also a big challenge to keep the country’s tree cover. Kitaka said that this is being compounded with urban heat highland effect as the main built up area in the city increases.
He said that KCCA has placed a lot of emphasis on tree planting across the city despite the limited un-built areas. He revealed that the Authority has managed to plant 22,000 trees since 2015.
Ronald Kibuule, the Minister of State for Water said that they hope to use the relay to support their targeted 40 million trees per year.
The runners are today making a stopover at Kafu where they will hand over a baton to other runners who will run up to Gulu.
Trees are being planted along the route and other 300,000 planted on Saturday in Gulu at an event to be presided over by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah.