Environment Local

Residents Celebrate Court of Appeal Hearing as Bugoma Forest Protection Case Progresses

Innocent Kiiza is an Enviromental Investigative Journalist with passion for Climate Change, Water and Wildlife.

BY INNOCENT KIIZA

The Court of Appeal in Kampala, presided over by Her Worship Lillian Bucyana, has begun hearing a landmark case that has captured the attention of environmentalists and local communities alike. Three prominent environmental organizations, the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), and Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET), are joining forces to protect the precious Bugoma Forest from further destruction.

Bugoma Forest, a cherished national treasure, has been facing relentless degradation due to the activities of Hoima Sugar Ltd (HSL), causing growing concern among residents living nearby. In response to this environmental crisis, the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC), comprising AFIEGO, NAPE, and WEMENT, has been passionately advocating for the preservation of this ecologically vital area.

The case, originally brought before the High Court in September 2020, alleges that HSL’s actions violated several provisions of Uganda’s environmental laws. The organizations assert that the company failed to comply with regulations requiring proper consultation with affected communities and publicizing the potential impacts and benefits of the project through mass media.

Despite the collective efforts of local communities, the Kikuube district government, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), and civil society members, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) granted Hoima Sugar Ltd an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate of approval in August 2020.

Disheartened by the High Court’s ruling on May 7, 2021, which did not favor the SBFC’s plea to revoke HSL’s ESIA certificate, the organizations appealed to the higher Court of Appeal, hoping for a favorable outcome in their fight to protect Bugoma Forest.

Today’s hearing saw both parties directed by the court registrar to file conferencing notes containing concise summaries of the case’s facts and the arguments to be presented during the proceedings. Additionally, the notes will outline the key issues that the court will determine. The deadline for submitting these notes is set for October 6, 2023.

Residents living in proximity to Bugoma Forest have expressed their anguish over the irreparable damage caused to the ecosystem. Ms. Lamula Asasira, a resident near Bugoma Forest, lamented the loss of ancient trees and the critical role the forest once played in regulating the local weather and providing essential resources. “I cry when I see what has happened to our forest. Trees that were hundreds of years old have been destroyed for sugarcane and logs. I feel pain inside,” says Asasira.

The chairperson of SBFC, Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, emphasized the urgency of prioritizing environmental cases, particularly those concerning the protection of Uganda’s few remaining tropical rainforests. Mr. Frank Muramuzi of NAPE highlighted the alarming decline in the population of chimpanzees, with Bugoma Forest being home to approximately 11.4% of Uganda’s chimpanzee population before the destructive activities of Hoima Sugar Ltd.

As the court’s decision could have profound consequences for the preservation of Bugoma Forest and its rich biodiversity, residents and environmental activists are hopeful that their voices will be heard and that the court will rule in favor of protecting this invaluable natural heritage.

The October 6 hearing is eagerly awaited by all parties involved, as they continue their relentless efforts to save Bugoma Forest from further devastation.

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