NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) has issued a statement downplaying the allegations in the news cycle that the forest had been sold off.
Stories of the sale of the forest have been in the media since June 2020, alleging NEMA sale of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited, for sugarcane growing.
Hoima Sugar Limited was targeting close to 6,000 hectares of forest cover conversion into sugarcane plantations.
The land in question has issues tracing back to 2019 where Judge Wilson Musalu Musene dismissed a case in which NFA had jointly sued Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara, Hoima Sugar Limited, and Uganda Land Commission. In his judgment, he indicated that the Bunyoro Kingdom acquired freehold interest and legally leased land to Hoima Sugar Limited. NFA subsequently appealed the High Court ruling but lost the case as per the judgment made by Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, on December 3, 2019.
Owing to the 1995 Environment law that puts all resoruces under the management of government, NEMA over saw land allocation as determined by court in the following way:
Sugarcane Plantation (9.24 sq. miles / 2,393.8483 ha); on an area that was entirely grass land (not forested)
Urban Centre (1.206 sq. miles / 312.3 ha);
Eco-tourism: Eco-tourism Centre (1.97 sq. miles / 510.2277 ha); Cultural Site (0.156 sq. miles / 40.4038 ha); and, the natural reserved forest and nature walk-ways/trails (6.17 sq. miles / 1598.023 ha)
Degraded areas for restoration (3.13 sq. miles / 810.663 ha).
NEMA insists that all the fragile ecosystems within the project area including the rivers, streams, wetlands/swamps, steep hill slopes, among others, shall be protected.