MASAKA– Masaka district forest department has expressed concern over the increasing demand for timber, which has resulted in the rampant destruction of forests in the district.
Masaka District Forest Officer, Willy Bbaale said 60 percent of the district’s 34,822 hectares of forest cover has been cut down for timber.
He said the forest reserves of Mujuzi, Jubiya, and Manwa in Bukakata Subcounty and Namirembe Forest Reserve in Kyanamukaka Subcounty have been depleted of their natural indigenous trees by loggers.
Bbaale said the boom in timber trade has prompted loggers to over-exploit tree species such as Mvule, Musizi, and Mahogany.
”Dealing in timber has become a lucrative business due to the high demand for furniture and construction of buildings in the newly created city of Masaka,” he said.
On July 1, 2020, Masaka Municipality was elevated to city status and more business enterprises like the carpentry workshop increased where timer for furniture is on high demand.
Bbaale said the district authorities are finding it hard to manage some of the gazatted forest reserves found on privately owned land in Masaka city and they are the most degraded. He pointed out Kyakumpi Forest Reserve with Mvule trees sitting on 15 acres of land owned by Buganda kingdom.
He said they have had disputes with Buganda land board officials over the management of the forest reserve located on the Masaka-Mbarara bypass.
Andrew Katashisha, one of the timber traders and an owner of a carpentry workshop on Hobart Street in Masaka city, said the number of customers in need of furniture is big after Masaka was elevated to city status.
He added that the demand for timber for the construction of commercial and residential buildings is also very high.
”On a daily basis, I sell 30 to 35 pieces of timber for furniture as compared to 17 pieces when Masaka was still a municipality,” he said. He said the demand for timber from other carpenters has also forced him to put more pressure on loggers to provide more timber.
However, in an effort to enforce the protection of forests in Masaka district, the district forestry department is working in partnership with the police and Uganda People’s Defence Forces [UPDF] to fight loggers and restore the degraded forests.
He said despite the limited financial and human capacity, his department is replanting indigenous tree species and promoting fast-growing tree species for timber to reduce pressure on the remaining natural forests.
Masaka District Police Commander, Moses Nanoka said a crackdown on illegal timber cutting has had over 2000 timbers impounded.
Forests in the district are reserved for the protection of ecological systems.
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