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Destroying Bugoma will block wildlife migration corridor

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As the forest thinned, Elephants that used to move back and forth from Queen Elizabeth National Park stopped passing through Bugoma; next will be the chimpanzees if the forest is wiped out.

To appreciate the Save Bugoma Forest campaign , one needs to get its history to know that it is gradually diminishing. Animals are losing their habitat as precious species of trees are felled. Rare bird species have been displaced as the flora and fauna is destroyed. A Vision Group team was on the ground two weeks ago and continues to report what was discovered. 

There is infrastructure (road) for wild animals like elephants moving between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park. The migratory corridor is the infrastructure (road) for wild animals like elephants moving between Queen’s Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park. It has existed for centuries. But now the remaining part of it  between Bugoma  and Budongo forests is being destroyed.

To appreciate the Save Bugoma campaign one needs to get the  forest’s history to see it is being depleted. Consequently, animals are losing their habitat, precious species of trees are felled and rare bird species displaced.

The  cutting the forest is also impacting on the environs, triggering climate change. As the Vision Group team moved in the Kisinde sector of the forest near Kabwoya in Kikuube district, dry leaves on the ground made cracking sound, betraying the journalists’ presence.

To avoid being detected by charcoal burners, members of the team had to stealthily walk for a few steps, stop look around before taking the next steps. The smell of burning charcoal wafted through the forest and the mowing sound of power saws echoed deeper in the forest.

The team came across logs left behind by loggers. Probably, they were being prepared for charcoal burning or use as timber. There were also several sites showing evidence of  charcoal burning with mounds  of ash left  after the perpetrators harvesting their loot.  There were no chimpanzees in sight yet this is their home.

Back in time, Kyejonjo, which is now a district, was named after elephants that used to roam in parts of western Uganda from Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese district to Bugoma forest in Hoima and Kikuube districts. Moses Adyeri, a resident, says Kyejonjo means ‘a passage for elephants.’

“The elephants do not come to Kyejonjo anymore because it has become a town,” he says, adding that they have been scared away by human activity.

The noise caused by cars prevents some birds and marsh-nesting birds from locating mates and undermines the rearing of young ones.

Sam Mwandah, the executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), says elephants used to move back and forth from Queen Elizabeth National Park through Kibaale to Kyejonjo, which used to have a chain of forests. The elephants would cross into Kagombe and other forest reserves in Bugoma.

Another migratory corridor from Semliki National Park in the western arm of the East African Rift Valley (Albertine Rift) was previously connected to Bugoma. This was a meeting place for elephants and other large mammals, including chimpanzees. As charcoal burning, expansive farmland and human settlement take a toll on the environment, the migratory corridors are shrinking and becoming undesirable routes for animals.

It is going to get worse as Bugoma gets cut down to plant sugarcane.  First, the elephants have been blocked as the forest thinned over the years; next will be the chimpanzees if the forest is wiped out.

Yafesi Kaahwa, a resident of Kabwoya sub-county in Kikuube district, says Bugoma means a place where animals are highly concentrated. From Bugoma, wild animals used to continue moving to Budongo Forest Reserve, which is about 60km away.

The elephants and chimps would continue to Murchison Falls National Park, which is Uganda’s largest protected area. In most cases, big mammals, including the elephants, would make the return journey to Budongo, Bugoma, Kagombe and Kyejonjo to Kibaale and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Unfortunately, Mwandha says, the migratory corridors have been blocked. Mwandha says this poses danger to wildlife because when animals are cut off from larger habitats, inbreeding sets in.

With the corridors blocked, small populations of chimps cannot easily move to the larger forests such as Bugoma, where their relatives stay.  The constriction also results in the “unwelcome stay of the chimps in the villages” sparking off conflicts between the chimps and the human population.

The chimps that are stuck in the forests are facing two threats. Firstly, the chimps have to turn to farmland and fruits on private land for  food. Secondly, the chimps in smaller communities of less than 200 could suffer from inbreeding and become wiped out in case of a disease outbreak.

HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICTS

As a result of chimps foraging on private land, conflicts with people have escalated, Kasozi Atuhura, the conservation programme officer under Chimpanzee Trust in Hoima, says.

“We have to create awareness among the local communities so we understand chimp behaviour in order to reduce conflicts and fatalities that could occur as a result of attacks,” Atuhura tells the Vision Group team.

He says they are encouraging communities to grow crops that are not palatable to chimpanzees. The crops being promoted include Irish potatoes and soya beans.

Sadly, Atuhura says, the chimps are making attempts to eat the new crops and in some areas, Irish and soya beans have failed to bail out the farmers. An adult chimp requires a minimum of 2sq.km of forest to get enough food, Peter Apell, who works with the Jane Goodall Institute, which promotes understanding and protection of great apes, says.

THREAT OF INBREEDING

Atuhura says the restricted movement of chimps is leading to a slow genetic death. This means chimps mate with their close relatives and end up producing weak offspring. The forest patches that used to shelter the big mammals during their migrations have been wiped out of the landscape.

“It is only a few chimps that make an attempt to use them and in many cases, they do not make it to Bugoma,” Atuhura says. Stephen Nyakojo, a resident of  Kabwoya, says the last elephant in the migratory corridor was seen in the 1970s.

“Our parents were fearful of the elephants and used to escort us to the crossing points of the animals,” Nyakojo says.

In Kibaale district, the last attempts by elephants to migrate through parts of Muhoro were in 1978, Yusuf Kasumba, a resident of Muhoro, says. “The elephants attempted to cross from Kyejonjo but they could not proceed as they lost their way, probably because of the human settlements,” he says.

 DISAPPEARING WILDLIFE ROAD

In addition, there was an arm of the migratory corridor that was linking Semliki via Bugoma to Budongo, according to Simon Nampindo, the director of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society in Uganda.

This is what government agencies, including UWA and NGOs, Wildlife Conservation Society, Jane Goodall Institute, Flora and Fauna International and Chimpanzee Trust are trying to restore.

The land where the migratory corridors were previously sitting belongs to individuals and not the Government. This means that farmers have to be compensated to leave the land for the animals or they have to be persuaded to live with the wild animals.

Apart from unsustainable agriculture and charcoal burning, the forests are being threatened by illegal extraction of timber and mining.

**New Vision

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NGO WORK

Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project

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On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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NGO WORK

TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.

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TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.

Source: mg.co.za

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NGO WORK

Incredible WIN! European Union withdraws from Energy Charter Treaty

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The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement originally created with a focus on growing fossil fuel energy cooperation after the Cold War. Today, the Treaty is a major obstacle to effective climate action because it protects fossil fuel investments. By including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel corporations to sue States that act to protect our climate when that action could impact a company’s profits.

Today, we celebrate because the European Council overwhelmingly adopted the EU’s proposal to exit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an outdated international investment agreement that protects and promotes fossil fuel investments.

CIEL and other organizations across Europe have worked tirelessly to educate European decision-makers about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty. Together, we proved how the treaty prevents effective climate action and is fundamentally incompatible with EU law.

This pivotal vote follows up an EU Commission’s proposal for the EU and European Atomic Energy Community to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Commission found the ECT incompatible with the EU’s laws, investment policy and law, and energy and climate goals. Its proposal broke months of deadlock by offering EU countries the option to remain in the treaty while allowing other countries to exit. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in April 2024 calling on the EU to withdraw from the ECT.

Today’s vote proves that people power can win critical victories!

Join us in celebrating this victory for the people, the environment, and the climate!

Demonstrators wear masks with the EU leaders under a sword that reads Energy Charter Treaty.

Why does this matter?

Fossil fuel investors have used the Energy Charter Treaty to sue States when they take climate action, claiming a right to compensation for alleged loss of investments. If they are serious about climate action, States must disentangle themselves from investor protections that allow fossil fuel companies to sue them in private courts when States act in the public interest to phase out fossil fuels. States could be squeezed from both sides: sued by communities for their climate inaction with ever greater frequency, and sued by investors when they do act to phase out the fossil fuel drivers of the climate crisis and accelerate the energy transition.

CIEL has worked for a long time to dismantle ISDS and ensure that the perspectives of communities inform ongoing arbitration.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Exit the Energy Charter Treaty'

Policymakers in Europe, and beyond, now have a duty to end their dependency on fossil fuels, exit the ISDS system that allows industry to sue States for enacting public interest policies, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

This win in Europe is a milestone in the fight against investor state dispute settlements. Now, we are leveraging this momentum for other States and clearing the way for effective climate action around the world.

Today we celebrate this victory with you. Tomorrow we will continue working to uproot the fossil economy driving the climate crisis, and the trade and investment deals that stand in the way of a renewable energy future.

Source: ciel.org

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