KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – The attempts to industrialize key wilderness areas in Uganda and turn them into productive sites for the country are becoming legion.
Conservationists and members of the tourism fraternity keep pointing out to the government the opportunities to globally exploit the “green potential” through tourism, carbon offset trading and, in particular, intensified research into the medicinal use of the flora found in such pristine areas, many of which remain largely unexplored.
Uganda’s Maramagambo Forest, extending into portions of Queen Elizabeth National Park, is one of several such medium altitude rain forests, where yet undiscovered bird species beckon to be found and identified, and where plants of immense value to human medicine can be researched, bringing in a constant stream of revenue into the country.
Yet, only miles away from Maramagambo, at the opposite end of the park where incidentally the French global industrial conglomerate Lafarge’s local cement company Hima is set to dig their way into the immediate neighborhood of a globally recognized Ramsar wetland site for open quarrying of lime stone, another key area is now in the cross hairs of developers.
The Mpanga River gorge, coming from the Kibale Forest National Park and extending into the Queen Elizabeth National Park before reaching Lake George, has been set aside for a hydro-electric power plant development, although the national park boundary is clearly above the waterfalls, which puts the development either inside a protected area or at the very least at the immediate outside of the park, something unacceptable for conservationists.
The make matters worse, the Mpanga River gorge is home to a rare species of cycad trees, arguably the largest such concentration globally. Reportedly a US-based company is now in the process of eliminating the entire forest, which a renowned environmental journalist has called a “crime against our environment.”
In a noticeable development, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has invited leading business, academic and scientific opinion leaders for a breakfast meeting in early June under the heading of “Leadership for Conservation in Africa.” This meeting is to advance discussions over planned UWA investments in and around protected areas to make wildlife and nature based tourism a yet bigger economic force in the country, while, in the meantime, corporate greed, i.e. France’s Lafarge/Hima, Mehta’s Sugar Corporation of Uganda and now a power developer, gobble up priceless natural resources with ever increasing speed, which the country will well rue in years to come.
In a related development, Costa Rica has just been reported to becoming a global showcase for going green and not only protecting natural resources but commercially and sustainably using them for revenue purposes in favor over short sighted and short lived industrial projects, an avenue still open for Uganda, too.