Over twelve undulating hills and a pristine wetland within the expanse of Echuya Forest Reserve have fallen victim to a series of deliberate blazes, orchestrated by individuals yet to be identified.
Echuya Forest Reserve borders the districts of Kisoro and Rubanda, encompassing a sprawling area exceeding 34 square kilometers.
Regrettably, this sanctuary has become acquainted with the scorching touch of flames, with certain segments subjected to the inferno’s embrace at least once annually.
Among the scarred landscapes, a dozen hills have now been confirmed as ravaged by fire, their names etching a sorrowful narrative that stretches across both Muko sub-county in Rubanda district and Kanaba in Kisoro district.
A mournful roll call includes Zugyi, Bukanama, Mbagayure, Gisha, Kuwabarozi, and Gihirondwa in Kanaba Sub-County and Kankirane, Murubindi, Katabukyi, and Kigarama in Muko Sub-County. This devastation is further compounded by the desecration of the wetland that interlaces both sub-counties.
In a disheartening turn of events, conservation organizations and local authorities in Muko and Kanaba have unveiled that these fires were ignited around 8:30 pm the previous evening by shadowy figures whose motives are presumed to be rooted in a desire to conjure rain.
Amongst the community, voices resonate in condemnation of this reckless act, especially considering the ongoing advocacy for the transfer of the forest to the stewardship of the Uganda Wildlife Authority a move intended to yield greater benefits for the local populace.
Finger-pointing, however, finds its mark on the National Forestry Authority, accused of inadequately deploying personnel for regular patrols within and along the forest, thereby failing to curtail the encroachment of human activities within these sacred woods.
Christopher Irakiza, shedding light on this unfortunate series of events, disclosed that the forest has historically fallen victim to happenstance conflagrations sparked by the remnants of fires set by honey harvesters.
Irakiza also highlighted the deliberate ignition of the wetland, driven by the belief that the ensuing smoke possesses the power to beckon rain from the heavens.
He deplored the tepid response from the National Forestry Authority in safeguarding this natural treasure and further unveiled the discouraging reality that many community members refrain from extinguishing these fires, citing a lack of tangible rewards for their diligent efforts.