Uganda abandons rainforest logging for palm oil
May 27, 2007
The Ugandan government abandoned plans to log thousands of hectares of rainforest on Bugala island in Lake Victoria for a palm oil plantation, Reuters reported Saturday.
President Yoweri Museveni has faced violent protests and global condemnation over proposals to allow private firms to convert protected forests into farmland. The announcement comes just days after a plan to clear Mabira Forest Reserve for a sugar cane plantation was also shelved.
Reuters reports the government will not give Bidco, a Kenyan company, permits for clearing additional forest on Bugala. The firm, which has already cleared thousands of hectares of forest on the island, was seeking to convert another 2,500 hectares to add to its 4,000 hectares of palm plantation.
In light of bad press, in January Bidco had expressed reservations about the plan. The firm said that the “negative publicity” was jeopardizing its credit rating. Bidco Uganda director Kodey Rao told Reuters the company never ask for rainforest, but that’s what the Ugandan government offered.
“We never asked for the reserves, neither are we interested in taking forest reserves,” he was quoted as saying. “The government is supposed to give us land. We signed, so we are waiting for that land.”
Critics of the proposal said that forest clearing would worsen soil erosion into Lake Victoria, affecting fisheries. They also noted that Bugala’s high biodiversity would be at risk by the venture.