By Aaron Ainomugisha
The Executive Director (ED) of Pro-biodiversity conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU), Paul Twebaze has challenged government and the public at large to jointly conserve the environment especially by ensuring that encroachers are brought to book basing on the laws and through whistleblowing.
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 to eliminate environmental crimes as well as sensitizing the community to understand the importance of natural resources for continued proper environmental protection and natural resources governance,’ he added.
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 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 of grabbing it to use it for tea growing prompting the district to sue them.
While delivering judgment, Lady Justice Kazaarwe said ‘court was satisfied that DW6 and DW2 participated in cutting down trees on the 23rd May 2016 and the 9th January 2017 along with others. When a trespass has caused physical damage to the land, the measure of damages is the loss 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 L G with both technical and financial resources during this battle including facilitating the surveying of the forest and developing maps.