New climate committee opposes Bugoma, Zoka forest giveaway

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Parliament's Committee on Climate Change launched earlier today, with Chairperson MP Biyika Lawrence Songa

A parliamentary Committee on Climate Change has officially been inaugurated, with Chairperson, Hon Lawrence Biyika Songa, saying there will be no compromise on environment protection.

At a news conference on Wednesday, 14 August 2019, the Committee, which was formed in May following an amendment to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, set out its roles to the country.

“We assure Ugandans that this Committee will, on their behalf, and without fear or favour, treat the matter of climate change as a national emergency and therefore, employ a strict code of operation that will ensure and enforce compliance with guidelines by all stakeholders and citizens,” said MP Biyika.

Biyika set out by voicing opposition to the proposed giveaway of Bugoma and Zoka forest reserves to an investor, who plans to grow sugarcane.

“We shall work hand in hand with other committees…to conserve our environment; Bugoma is one of our natural resources and we shall within our means, do our best, to save that forest and many others like Zoka,” said Biyika.

Parliament created the Committee on Climate Change, and spelt out its functions in the new rule 182A.

“The Committee on Climate Change shall provide oversight on the responsiveness of Government to matters of climate change, its mitigation and adaptation,” reads rule 182A (1).

Other functions of the Committee include the scrutiny of all Bills presented before Parliament in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation; coordinate parliamentary activities related to climate change and make recommendations to Parliament on matters relating to climate change among others.

MP Isaac Mulindwa Ssozi (NRM, Lugazi Municipality), who is a member of the Committee, said the issue of land use, especially as it relates to sand mining and related activities will be of interest to the Committee.

“The laws relating to mining did not gazette sand as a mineral but we will have to look at the laws especially in light of environmental impact assessment on the sand mining activities,” he said.

Hon Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, also a member of the Committee, said there is need to step up efforts to fight charcoal trade, but said government should start by lowering the price of electricity to make its use attractive.

“All of us here, including Members of Parliament, use charcoal,. If we cannot use electricity for cooking, how about the ordinary Ugandan?” he said.

Mbwatekamwa also dismissed claims that the influx of refugees explains Uganda’s depleting forest cover.

He said the responsibility to work to restore the environment is for everybody.

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