The Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) asked the Government of Uganda for an allocation of 7,100 hectares of Mabira Central Forest Reserve to expand its sugarcane production operations.
The expansion would however have to be preceded by the degazettment of the area.The proposal triggered controversies and demonstrations leading to deaths of three people.
Nature Uganda (BirdLife partner in Uganda) and other civil society organizations formed a campaign (Save Mabira Campaign) to oppose this degazettment. The main reasons are: Mabira Forest is a protected area and one of the critical biodiversity hotspots in Uganda. Mabira is an Important Bird Area (IBA) containing 30% of total birds found in Uganda and globally-threatened species.
Mabira forest sinks over 17,600,000 tons of carbon, hence reducing the effect of green house gases and reducing impact of global warming.
The forest is one of the few major forests that form a ring of protection for Lake Victoria and big water catchment for Lake Kyoga and River Nile through Musamya and the Sezibwa rivers.
Mabira receives more than 62% of all tourists visiting forest reserves in the country and this number keeps increasing.
Degazettement would be a breach of the Constitution of Uganda and a disregard of the public trust to preserve and protect natural resources as enshrined in art. 237(2)(b) of the constitution.
As a result of this campaign, the Ugandan Government withdrew the decision to degazette Mabira forest in september 2007.
However, there are fears that the project could be revived due to the recent public pronouncements by the President about sugar shortage in Uganda and there are claims that Mabira Forest is the only suitable land for sugarcane production.