The Thin line Between Conservation and Extraction: Learning from Uganda’s case

Government, investors and host communities have to make a choice between sustaining sacred natural sites and territories, water and communities’ food sovereignty; or sacrificing them in favour of short-term benefits from mining and extractive activities, says a new report by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and the Gaia Foundation.

The choice is stark: either we sustain Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, water and communities’ food sovereignty, or we sacrifice these fundamental conditions of life for present and future generations, in favour of short-term mining and extractive activities and the toxic wasteland left in their wake. Is this the legacy we wish to leave our children?

Entitled Mining and its impacts on water, food sovereignty and sacred natural sites and territories, the report recognises the existence of several sacred natural sites in the oil-rich Bunyoro region, in the form of water bodies (lakes and rivers), caves, rocks, forests and other “wild lands” that have ecological, spiritual and cultural significance to the communities.

But, adds the report, Uganda’s ‘remaining ecosystems’ face the threat of irreversible damage from the potential extraction of minerals as well as commercial and chemical agriculture, specifically through the promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).

The report warns that mining could destroy the health and survival of sacred natural sites and territories, food sovereignty and water systems on “an unprecedented scale.”

It specifically highlights the potential of extractive activities to contaminate water and soil through oil spills and dumping of waste, noting that the huge consumption of fresh water by the industry could deplete the lakes in Bunyoro and affect the region’s food production.

While the report calls on communities to sustain and protect sacred natural sites and territories, food sovereignty and water systems, it also urges extractive investors to respect national, regional and international laws; recognise the rights and ecological limits of ecosystems; respect the principles of free prior and informed consent and recognise that sacred natural sites and territories and other protected areas are ‘no-go’ areas for mining, extractive activities and destructive activities.

Source: OilinUganda