Civil, Environmental Engineering & Project Management Consultants

A road in one of the most sensitive forest reserves!

When Uganda’s Ministry of Works, Housing & Communications (MoWHC) wanted a road constructed through Kashoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve in Bushenyi District, one of the nation’s most sensitive forest reserves, whom did they turn to? It was us (AWE).

Initially a footpath, Katerera-Bihanga Road would be improved to attain sufficient width for motor vehicle traffic, adequate roadside drainage and a stable pavement surface to cope with existing and projected future traffic volumes. The road would start at Ishaka Trading Center located 2 km Northeast of the forest reserve and end at a T-Junction near Bihanga Trading Center, 5 km Southeast of the forest reserve. A 12-kilometer section of the road would pass through a “Strict Nature Reserve” (SNR) of the forest reserve. In a SNR, a forest is left in its natural undisturbed state and no human activity is permitted. Thirteen streams that discharge into Lake George, itself an important ecological system, cross the road.

Without this road, travelling by motor vehicle from Bihanga to Ishaka Trading Center only 19 km away would require local people to go via Kabwohe, Bushenyi Town, Ishaka Town (near Bushenyi), Katerera then to Ishaka Trading Center. This is a distance of over 90 km on a rugged road shunned by all means of public transport. To the local community, this long distance was costly financially and wasteful in travel time. There is therefore no doubt that the road would be very beneficial to local communities. However, it also posed significant ecological risk to one of the most sensitive forest reserves in Uganda and richest in biodiversity. Balancing socio-economic benefits of the road project with evident adverse ecological impact on the forest reserve demanded a multidisciplinary approach and mitigation solutions from engineers, transport planners, wildlife ecologists, flora specialists, sociologists and social-development workers. MoWHC found AWE to have the best combination of specialists and was considered best suited to undertake the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and ecological audit (EA) of the road project.

Kashoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is home to four species of primates namely: P. troglodytes, C. l’hoesti, and C. guereza Cercopithecus ascanius and the African elephant (Loxodanta Africana) that are of conservation concern. Three plant species found in the forest: Uvariodendron magnifica, Lecaniodiscus cupaniodes, Halea stipulata are listed by International Union For Conservation Of Nature And Natural Resources (IUCN) as endangered while Guarea cedrata, Entandophragma angolense are threatened species. Also, the forest reserve is a sanctuary to migratory animals from nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park. The most significant potential adverse impact of the road project was therefore disruption of migratory routes of wild animals and destruction of endangered floral species in 9.6 hectares (23.7 acres) of forest cover that would be cleared during road construction. Measures to adequately mitigate all potential negative impacts were developed during the EIA/EA study.

A social impact assessment established that the road would be immensely valuable to local communities of Ishaka and Bihanga. During its construction, many local men and youths would be employed by the contractor. For the first time, it would be possible to transport fresh fish, the cheapest source of animal protein in the local community, from Katunguru landing site directly to Bihanga. The road would enable interconnection of numerous schools, health centers and places of worship on either side of the forest reserve. For the first time, National Forest Authority’s Forest Rangers would be able to ride motorcycles through the forest from Bihanga to Ishaka and stem illegal exploitation of resources in Kashoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve.

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