Apparently the Ugandan government is allowing the destruction of parts of the country's natural rainforest to address energy and agricultural needs. According to Ugandan lawyer Moses Sserwanga, they have allocated a swath of the forest for new electricity transmission lines, and the National Forest Authority - charged with protecting the country's forests - is complicit in the deal. There have also been over 7,000 hectares of the forest given to Mehta Group for sugarcane production. The trend sounds worrying; this is not an isolated habitat, it's a 30,000 ha green lung. UGPulse reported in March last year:
...further depletion of Mabira forest will reduce the water flow of the surrounding streams and rivers and change rain patterns region wide, which in turn will negatively affect agriculture, cattle keeping, electricity supply and thus all economic activities in Uganda. The Ugandan government has given low water levels in Lake Victoria as the reason behind the country's current electricity crisis, and one would expect the nation's leaders to know better than to destroy the major source of water into Lake Victoria.
Environmentalists say that with the water levels in Lake Victoria already low, destroying part of Mabira forest is likely to lower electricity production, and proposed hydroelectric projects such as Bujagali, the River Sezibwa power plant, will be meaningless. In addition to potential disturbances to the microclimate, destruction of Mabira could also violate major global conservation agreements to which Uganda is a signatory, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992). This requires the country to establish and maintain protected conservation areas.
According to African Insights:
President Museveni came out during November of 2007, that Mabira would remain as it was. That was when the Commonwealth Heads of State came to Kampala and the world's attention were on Uganda. Since then however, the tune has changed and it is back to the give-a-way talk to SCOUL.
Good governance is a prerequisite for environmental protection. Without accountability, the highest bidder wins. But this challenge also raises the thorny issue of national interest versus global efforts to reduce atmospheric carbon. Like the fight over Lake Victoria's water, this is another illustration of how difficult it is to manage a shared resource, even with international agreements in place.