NEMA should use satellite monitoring during lock down period to track illegal deforestation.

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The outbreak of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented global impact with almost no country left untouched. While it’s a health pandemic, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not limited to the health of a given population, but also have impacts on the economy and society’s well-being. 

The pandemic and the correspondent policy measures to reduce the transmission of the virus have turned people’s everyday lives upside down and instead many Ugandans left the towns and went to villages where they involved themselves in activities that encroach on Forests like illegal harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products for income generation.

Our environment is at high risk because our country has again been hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the control measures that were put to curb the spread of the virus-like the movement restrictions have had negative outcomes for sustainable forest management and forest protection efforts in Uganda; the measures have resulted in illegal harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products which has been on the increase due to reduced monitoring by the public sector forest agencies. 

On the 2nd of July, the community members of Alimugonza village in Mandi district were attacked by over 30 elephants and they are encroaching on the communities’ livelihoods. This is due to the increased cutting down of trees during the lock down period and hence leading to a direct loss of wildlife habitat as well as general degradation of their habitat.

It is extremely important to note that many forests and wetlands have been destroyed during this second wave of COVID-19 through farming, grazing animals and looking for herbs as well and hence leading to forest loss. Due to the pandemic, Forest loss in the tropics increased by 12 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, and this is because the Pandemic forced many people into rural areas hence resorting to farming. 

Undoubtedly, Forests are some of the most beautiful, magical places on Earth. They are essential solutions to climate change. But, between 45-60 thousand square miles of forest are lost per year due to deforestation! This is not just a tragedy, but a plague on our planet that could spell disaster for all life on Earth in the future.

Furthermore, Forests take in the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and, in return, provide us with the oxygen we breathe in. One mature tree can provide enough oxygen per day to support between 2 to 10 people. The fewer trees there are, the lives that our planet can support

I therefore enthusiastically urge NEMA to make use of satellite monitoring during the lockdown period to track illegal deforestation in hotspot areas and issue deforestation alerts and also encourage investments in agroforestry and reforestation.

Shadia Nakazibwe, Communications assistant EGI