Timber growers resort to exotic tree planting to conserve the environment as a result of rising public concern over environmental degradation
Uganda Timber Growers Association: Due to rising public concern over environmental degradation in the country as a result of widespread tree cutting.
Timber growers in the way to make timber, fuel and woods out of trees have made up an intervention to plant exotic trees to replace the indigenous tree species.
In their argument, this will help conserves the environment and cover-up at the huge demand for woods as well.
But, the communities where these exotic trees are being planted, claim that the trees are drying up their wells and causing a distraction to food production.
This follows a recent scuffle timber dealers encountered in Mityana District, with Rt Maj Gen Kasirye Gwanga who allegedly accused them of destroying the environment.
“This is not a joke! I am telling you the country is being destroyed by these simple traders, in fact, some of them are foreigners! There are not from here,” Gwanga said.
However, Uganda Timber Growers Association (UTGA), licenced by National Forest Authority to operate in Forest Reserves, says they are behind Kasirye’s passion of environmental conservation, but they don’t agree with the way he handles the matter.
“Instead of doing what he does, for us, we go into them, plantation of trees. So, that we conserve forests and then provide woods for poles, for timber and fuel,” David Denis Kavuma, UTGA General Manager said.
Uganda has so far seen a reduction on its forest cover from 24% in the 1990s to 80% to date.
However, while reforestation of exotic tree species has been advanced as a means of replacing the forest cover, some environmentalists believe that some trees such as Pine and Eucalyptus have a devastating effect on the Echo System.
“It supports any biodiversity underneath because it’s negatively acidic. And in terms of economics, I don’t think it benefits people, Executive Director National Association of Professionals Environmentalists said.
However, the National Forest Authority (NFA) says the arguments about the negative effects of Pine and Eucalyptus trees are not based on facts.
“The science is simple! Evapotranspiration, you have done this in basic Science. As the trees lose water, they keep picking! So, it’s cyclic. When you cut off the tree, the surface of the tree and the leaves and that’s where we know evaporation takes place. So, as they evapo-transpire they pick water and that process goes on, and if you remove the tree then that process will not go on, because the hydrogen bonds that keep holding the water bringing it up to the surface will be broken,” Stuart Manruha NFA Official said.
While Dr Patrick Byakagaba, an environmental scientist says that not every exotic tree is conducive to the Echo system.
But what should be done is to grow the right tree species and in the right place to protect the natural eco-systems of this country?
“We need to make sure that we grow the right species in the right place without having any negative feedback on the natural eco-systems. And this is possible if the enforcing agencies especially the District Local Governments apply the right measures, but also the other important actors within the forest sector, and National Environment Authority.”
Uganda’s population is predicted to reach 7.5m by 2040, which puts the country on high demand for woods.