Echuya Forest Reserve Blaze Engulfs 12 Hills and Wetland

echuya burning
echuya burning
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Over 12 hills and one wetland of Echuya forest reserve have been set ablaze by unknown persons.

Echuya forest reserve is a sanctuary for different plants and animal species, bordering two districts of Kisoro and Rubanda and covering over 34 square kilometers.

The forest has always seen some of its parts set ablaze at least once a year.

The 12 hills that have so far been confirmed burned are in both Muko sub-county of Rubanda district and Kanaba of Kisoro district. They include Zugyi, Bukanama, Mbagayure, Gisha, Kuwabarozi, Gihirondwa, Kankirane, Murubindi, Katabukyi, and Kigarama in Muko sub-county, while the wetland connects both sub-counties.

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According to conservation organizations, the fires began yesterday at around 8:30 p.m. by unknown persons whose intentions are believed to have been to cause rain.

A section of residents who spoke to our reporter condemned the act of burning the forest, which is being advocated for to be taken over by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in order for it to be more beneficial to the community.

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They blamed the National Forestry Authority (NFA) for lack of enough personnel to conduct regular patrols inside and along the forest to curb human activities from this forest.

According to Irakiza Christopher, the forest has always been burnt accidentally by the remains of fires from honey harvesters. He also noted that other individuals set the swamp ablaze because it accumulates a lot of smoke capable of causing rain.

He decried the lack of effort from the NFA in safeguarding the forest. He also revealed that most community members refuse to put out the fires because they are not rewarded for their efforts.

In a related development, community members surrounding Echuya forest reserve are demanding the government to gazette Echuya as a national park to enhance its security.

Bagora Benon, a close neighbor of the forest in Gitebe village, Kanaba Sub County, told our reporter that Echuya forest is vulnerable to so many illegal activities, such as tree cutting, bee keeping, and bamboo harvesting, which have always exposed it to bad elements.

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He noted that people who set the forest ablaze use the opportunity of limited patrols and a weak NFA that has failed to motivate communities on conserving this forest.

He blamed the NFA for not sharing the forest benefits with local communities, which would have helped it in enforcing its agenda of conservation.

Tumwesigye Set, another resident and a leader in Kanaba Community Development and Echuya Forest Conservation Association (KADECA), noted that different community organizations in Muko, Bufundi, Kanaba, and Murora sub-counties have been formed to aid the government in keeping Echuya secure, but the NFA is failing to coordinate with them.

He noted that the NFA is supposed to strengthen patrols and fire gangs during dry seasons, but nothing has been done this year. He also demanded that the forest be taken up by UWA for communities to benefit from tourism.

Dr. Haruna Mutabazi, the Muko sub-county LC3 Vice Chairperson who doubles as the Chairman for Muko Echuya forest Conservation development Organisation, said that the NFA has also always failed to facilitate people who sacrifice to put out fires, yet they meet with different challenges, such as snake bites.

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The KADECA Chairperson, Rubibi Yubu, asked the government and its agencies to consider giving any kind of support to community members that are fighting the fires that are engulfing the whole forest. He said that it has so far burnt over 80 acres.

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