Loss of habitats, pollution worries environmentalists

According to statistics from the NFA, Uganda's forest cover has decreased from 24% in the 1990s to 12.4% in 2022, with a government target of increasing it to 15% by the end of this financial year.

ATC Uganda, a leading telecommunications infrastructure provider, has joined hands with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to commemorate International Biodiversity Day by participating in a tree planting and restoration activity in the Mabira Rain Forest.

The event took place on May 22, 2023, and was held under the theme, ‘From Agreement To Action: Build Back Biodiversity.The Mabira Rain Forest, located 61.7 kilometers east of Kampala City, is one of Uganda’s largest surviving natural forests, covering an area of 300 square miles.

According to statistics from the NFA, Uganda’s forest cover has decreased from 24% in the 1990s to 12.4% in 2022, with a government target of increasing it to 15% by the end of this financial year.

The Tree Planting and Restoration activity, held as a prelude to the international World Environment Day, celebrated annually on June 5th, was hosted by NEMA and NFA, with ATC Uganda contributing 5,000 seedlings for the restoration activity. This partnership aims to address the significant reduction in forest cover resulting from widespread reliance on firewood and charcoal for cooking, which has led to the loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, and climate change.

Speaking at the event, Dr Akankwasah Barirega, Executive Director NEMA, applauded ATC Uganda and other companies for joining forces to safeguard the environment, urging everyone in Uganda to join in because environmental degradation affects everyone.

“We are here to celebrate the international day for Biodiversity. Biodiversity is facing many challenges but the biggest challenge globally and here in Uganda is loss of habitats, pollution and climate change. We are here today to work with our partners, NFA, ATC Uganda, Biodiversity Fund, Civil society, the private sector and all Ugandans to stop the talk and start on the restoration of our forests, especially Mabira forest, one of the oldest forestry reserves in central Uganda and so we must guard it jealousy. As you have all seen, Mabira is still there, we just need to restore the parts that have been exploited. Therefore, we are calling on other companies, everyone in Uganda, and communities surrounding forested areas to join this drive to save the forest cover, which contributes greatly to Uganda’s wonderful climate and environmental stability,” he said.

The NFA Executive Director, Tom Obong Okello said Mabira was gazetted as a central forest reserve in 1932, about 91 years ago, for the purposes of watershed management and protection and diversity conservations. However, over the years, Mabira has been demarcated and the boundary line is 3,001 kms in the three districts of Mukono, Kayunga and Mpigi.

“The forest has faced challenges; it is threatened because of its urban nature with the fast-growing municipalities and fast-growing population which has led to encroachment. People come here to collect firewood and timber. The other challenge is that it was gazetted with people in the forest, this means that it needed extra protection and this is the reason why we are putting all our efforts into it in the past years,” Obong said.

ATC Uganda is committed to conserving the environment through its sustainability agenda, which is aligned with Government’s objectives to reforest the country. The company is embracing the shared infrastructure model and heavily invests in clean energy generation, primarily through solar power.

Dorothy Kabagambe Ssemanda, Chief Executive Officer ATC Uganda said, “As a company, ATC Uganda recognises the importance of trees in sustaining life and the environment, and we are committed to taking practical steps towards achieving a sustainable future. Through our participation in this tree planting and restoration activity, we are proud to be contributing to the restoration of degraded forest landscapes and the protection of our planet’s biodiversity. Our focus on shared infrastructure and clean energy generation also demonstrates our commitment to sustaining our environment.

She said the tower company is committed to being a leader in sustainability and will continue to pursue initiatives that promote a sustainable future for all.

ATC Uganda is also proud to participate in the “Running out of Trees” (ROOTS) campaign, an initiative by the Ministry of Water and Environment and other stakeholders, aimed at achieving the National Forest Restoration Goal of restoring over 2.5 million hectares of degraded forest landscape by 2030. Since 2021, the company has actively participated in the ROOTS campaign by planting 28,500 trees and contributing to the purchase of tree seedlings annually.

By actively participating in the tree planting and restoration activity and supporting other environment protection initiatives, the tower company aims to make a positive and lasting impact on Uganda’s environment.

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