Monday, May 14, 2007

Uganda: Mehta is Flirting With Illegal Action

this my 2nd postinmg here

Mehta is Flirting With Illegal Action The Monitor (Kampala) COLUMN24 April 2007 Posted to the web 24 April 2007 By Moses Sserwanga
Last week cabinet ordered for a fresh study on the implications of giving away Mabira forest reserve for sugar cane growing. The cabinet's decision again sent strong political signals that government and President Yoweri Museveni are not about to give up on their schemes to alienate the natural tropical forest.
The campaign to save the 29,964 hectares of Mabira central forest reserve is of a global scale with numerous international environmental organisations calling upon the Uganda government to preserve what is remaining of the world's forest cover.
Ironically, this new cabinet decisions comes at a time when a leaked, detailed cabinet memorandum on Mabira which was prepared by the Ministry of Water and Environment clearly argued the case against the destruction of the natural forest reserve.
The ministry's memo rightly reminded government about its international and local obligations to conserve and sustainably utilise biological resources. The memo further highlights the severe negative impact of changing the land use of 7,100 hectares of natural forests to sugarcane ;which among others, will lead to reduction in water flow to the lakes and rivers in the region, change in temperatures, loss of unique ecosystem whose economic value is estimated at Shs23.3 billion.
But the most disturbing aspect about this saga is the fact that the alienation of Mabira forest is orchestrated by a private company, the Mehta Group which the government has already given a whooping Shs29.7 billion tax payers' money in compensation for its alleged losses.
Mr Suresh Sharma one of Scoul's directors has had the audacity to tell the nation that Mabira forest is the most appropriate for sugar cane growing. He has also had the impudence to state that the company could not drop its interest in Mabira.
Sharma should know that the Forest and Tree Planting Act which was enacted by parliament to protect forests for the benefit of the present and future generations imposes a personal legal duty and penalty on anyone who illegally destroys the country's forest resources.
It is equally important for our national leaders especially the cabinet and parliament to note that as they consider the fate of Mabira forest ,experts assessing the dangers posed to civilisation have added climate change to the prospect of nuclear annihilation ,as the greatest threats to humankind.
According to Ice evidence The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the experts have as a result, moved the minute hand on their famous "Doomsday Clock" two minutes closer to midnight. The concept timepiece, devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), now stands at five minutes to the hour.
The decision to move it came after BAS directors and affiliated scientists held discussions to reassess the idea of doomsday and what posed the most grievous threats to civilisation. Growing global nuclear instability has led humanity to the brink of a "Second Nuclear Age," the group concluded, and the threat posed by climate change is second only to that posed by nuclear weapons.
Its broad assessment is that the warning over the last few decades is attributable to human activities(such as the Uganda government's deforestation agenda- emphasis mine) and that its consequences are observable in such events as the melting of Arctic ice. In the years ahead, rising sea levels, heat waves, desertification, along with new disease outbreaks and wars over arable land and water, would mean climate change could bring widespread destruction, the BAS board warned.
We have laws in this country and international instruments to which Uganda is signatory -that can be employed to stave off or mitigate the effects of global warming through forest conservation.
The constitution provides for the Public Trust Doctrine in the management of our natural resources. A new amendment to our constitution article 8A (1) has transformed the 1995 guiding principles to provide that " Uganda shall be governed based on principles of national interest and common good enshrined in the national objectives and directive principles of state policy.
The government should listen to the voices of the people who are opposed to the destruction of Mabira forest reserve. Good governance calls for a democratic government and society where the leaders listen and adopt the aspirations of the people they lead.
Posterity shall treat our national leaders harshly for the wrong decisions they make about the management of natural resources.
The writer is a Journalist and Advocate

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