Uganda renews plans to log rainforest reserve for sugar cane
December 21, 2007

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Friday revived a controversial plan to grant a forest reserve to commercial sugar cane interests.

The scheme was shelved in October after deadly protests and widespread domestic and international condemnation.

Museveni said those who oppose the plan to hand 7,100 hectares of Mabira forest reserve over to the Mehta group, a private sugar firm, are "criminals and charlatans."

"Mehta wants to expand his factory ... in the underutilized part of Mabira ... criminals and charlatans kicked up lies and caused death. We suppressed the thugs," Museveni said. "This issue should be resolved," Museveni said in a party address published in Ugandan newspapers, according to Reuters. "If we do not industrialize, where shall we get employment for the youth? I will mobilize the youth to smash ... these cliques obstructing the future of the country."

Rainforest in Uganda. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Critics said the project would destroy a rare rainforest habitat for rare and endemic species, while threatening watersheds and leading to increased soil erosion into Lake Victoria. Some claimed that government members stood to benefit financially through the illegal sales of logged timber while the scheme would provide few benefits to Uganda and hurt the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Reuters reports that analysts expect the unpopular measure to be opposed in parliament.

Museveni also faced criticism for plans to allow a Kenyan company to log thousands of hectares of rainforest on Bugala island in Lake Victoria for a palm oil plantation. The license for the project was withdrawn in May.

CITATION: (December 21, 2007).

Uganda renews plans to log rainforest reserve for sugar cane.