Information came to light that sections of the prized Mabira Forest, a crucial national water tower and green lung for the capital Kampala and its growing metropolitan area, are being indiscriminately logged by unknown individuals, with the National Forest Authority apparently helpless or toothless to do something about it. Last year did President Museveni once again bring up a misguided notion that a quarter of the prime rain forest be converted to a sugar cane plantation, ostensibly to boost the flagging fortunes of the Mehta sugar barons, but a swift and almost Tsunami like reaction swept the plans aside, for now, when politicians, the business community, the conservation and tourism fraternities and civil society at large made it clear that this was a no go area.
It therefore comes as no surprise to many conservationists that other means are now being employed, such as increased illegal logging in sections of the forest previously earmarked for the giveaway, and the absence of any visible reaction by the National Forest Authority sheds also new light on the highly political appointment of a new Executive Director, who is generally perceived to be an ideal man to do his political masters bidding instead of executing his mandate without fear and favour. While he is in all fairness only in office now for a few weeks, this should however not impact on using countermeasures to prevent such widely known activities in sections of Mabira, which should be routine operations not requiring special sanction by the Executive Directors office, unless there is a covert hidden agenda in place as some have swiftly suggested already to this correspondent, when discussing the matter.
Further reports now emerging in the local media also suggest that the illegal encroachers and loggers are well protected by armed guards, raising yet more questions of who is behind the racket and is attempting to create facts on the ground to raze the forest before re-allocating the land.
In the past allegations were made against well connected local politicians, but not without asking whom they were fronting for as they would as best be considered foot soldiers for the real brains behind the criminal activities. A source close to the NFA in fact confirmed that we cannot give anyone permission to log from Mabira because that is a protected national forest reserve. We have in fact been helping areas with some degradation in the past to plant new hard wood trees so as far as I know, no one can legally take timber out of Mabira before insisting on anonymity for fears over keeping the job.
Tourism stakeholders are said to be increasingly worried, considering that Mabiras acclaimed Rain Forest Lodge is now playing a crucial role in the tourism circuits across Uganda and if tourists are confronted with the sorry sights of totally razed areas the negative publicity could seriously impact on the countrys standing as a green destination. The year 2012 is supposed to be Ugandas year, according to the Lonely Planet guide book publishers who have crowned Uganda as THE destination for this year, making the illegal loggers arguably the greatest enemy if not outright economic saboteurs of this dream become reality.