By Akampa Muhwezi
The Executive Director (ED) of Pro-biodiversity conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU), Paul Twebaze has challenged government and the public to jointly conserve the environment.
Twebaze said that government institutions like National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA and National Forestry Authority-NFA should work with court, police and other stakeholders to ensure that they bring to book all encroachers.
Twebaze added that more efforts are needed to sensitize the community on the importance of natural resources for continued proper environmental protection and natural resources governance
This follows Kabale high court verdict by Lady Justice Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya on September 21,2020 in favour of Kisoro district Local Government (LG) after four years of battling 12 defendants who encroached on Kafuga forest,one of the remnant forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park found in Rubuguri parish Kirundo sub county Kisoro District.
This forest is one of the community forests supposed to be protected by the district but on 23rd May 2016 and on 9th January 2017, some 12 people attacked the forest, cut down trees and set the forest on fire claiming that the land belonged to them and had intentions to use it for tea growing which prompted the district to sue them.
While delivering judgment, Lady Justice Kazaarwe said ‘court was convinced that DW6 and DW2 participated in cutting down trees on the 23rd May 2016 and the 9th January 2017.
When a trespass has caused physical damage to the land, damages thereby caused to the Plaintiff, which in all ordinary cases is measured by the resulting diminution in the value 5 of the property.
The measure of damages is not the cost of reinstatement- the cost of restoring the land to the condition in which it formerly was- a cost which may greatly exceed the actual diminution in the value of the land.’
Court also awarded shs12, 000,000 to the plaintiff (district) though the district wanted the defendant to pay about shs300 million.
Pro-biodiversity conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU) supported Kisoro District Local Government with both technical and financial resources during this battle including facilitated the surveying of the forest and developed maps.