KIBAALE/KAGADI- Police in Kibaale District are holding seven people for allegedly encroaching on Kangombe Forest Reserve in Muzizi village, Nyamarunda Sub-county.
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) supervisor in charge of Kangombe Belt, Mr Fredrick Atugonza, told Daily Monitor on Monday that the suspects were arrested on Sunday during an operation by NFA, police and Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) who were recently deployed to help in forest mapping and fight encroachment.
Mr Atugonza said the suspects were found with spraying pumps, hoes, pangas and other equipment used in farming.
“The suspects were taken to Kibaale Police Station pending further investigation,” Mr Atugonza said.
The arrest of the encroachers comes after government through the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, launched the opening of boundaries of Kangombe Forest Reserve.
Following the escalating forest encroachment, security officers have been deployed in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District, Kangombe Forest Reserve in Kibaale District, Ruzaire in Kagadi District and Kanaga Forest Reserve.
The commander of the National Vital Assets and Strategic Installations Unit, Col Allan Kyangugu, is overseeing the deployments.
While addressing journalists in Nyamarunda Sub-county, Kibaale District after launching the re-opening of boundaries of Kangombe Forest Reserve, the NFA Budongo system range manager, Mr Stuart Maniraguha, said the initiative would complement the work of all stakeholders involved in forestry governance.
However, Maniraguha dismissed claims that the Kibaale District chairman, Mr Peter Amara, had halted the activities of NFA officials until the opening of boundaries of Kangombe Forest Reserve is completed.
Bunyoro sub-region has 43 central forest reserves that cover 187, 281 hectares.
The encroachers are reportedly cultivating crops, setting up settlements and harvesting timber in the protected forests.
According to NFA, some encroachers are involved in charcoal burning, while others process illegal titles covering parts of the reserves.
According to the 2009 National Environmental Management Authority’s report, in 1990, Uganda had more than five million hectares of forest cover but by 2005 only 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) remained.
National Environment Management Authority (Nema )warns that if deforestation continues at the current rate, Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050. Conservationists estimate that Bunyoro loses about 7,000 hectares of forests annually.