‘UWA responsible for park fires’

Proprietors of lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park say the Uganda Wildlife Association (UWA) should take responsibility for the fires that gutted the Park View Safari Lodge and Mazike Valley Lodge last year.

While appearing before the Committee of Trade, Tourism and Industries, the proprietors of the two lodges said UWA should compensate them for the losses incurred.

The owner of Park View Lodge and Sheema Municipality MP, Hon Dicksons Kateshumbwa said that UWA was involved in burning of vegetation in the week leading up to the fires, according to satellite images. He adds that the fire that destroyed the lodges were from the park.
“I do have evidence that when the lodge got burnt, there was fire in the park on every single day. I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the fire did come from the national park,” he said.

Kateshumbwa added that it is a profitable venture if both UWA and the lodges work together.
“It is not a crime for the locals to invest into the industry. We need each other because UWA gets revenue from the guests that come to the lodge. Did the ministry do enough investigation? Why should they say the private lodges were negligent?” he asked.

He informed the committee that they reported to police and there is clear evidence of where the fire came from according to the police report.
The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col. (Rtd) Tom Butime said that whereas UWA does routine burning, it is in charge of only the national park and not the individual personal investments around the park.
“UWA has enforced sensitisation sessions to the private tourism operators; UWA does not have the jurisdiction to enforce implementation of the environmental impact assessment mitigation measures outside the parks. The biggest debate is who takes responsibility for the fire that gutted Park View Safari Lodge,” he said.

The UWA Executive Director, Sam Mwandha said that there is need for more manpower to deal with the wild fires.
“We call upon you to provide more funding that is adequate so that we can acquire more fighting equipment in the national parks,” Mwandha said.

The committee was directed by the Deputy Speaker, Rt.Hon. Anita Among to investigate how fire gutted the two lodges in the park. They have had several engagements on site and met with the stakeholders to find a lasting solution.