By City Communication Officer

Arua City leaders have yet again rejected the Eco-Tourism Project at Arua Central Forest Reserve alias ‘Barifa Forest’, proposed by Oguzu Lee Denis, Member of Parliament for Maracha County Constituency. The project aimed to establish several facilities including a hotel, community games, access controls, an open concert auditorium, a museum, a Children’s park, and an aquaculture system among others. 

The eco-tourism centre project was unanimously deferred by City leaders for failing to meet the required standards for the establishment of an eco-tourism centre at a consultative meeting convened by Arua City Council last week at Arua Core PTC. 

The meeting brought together various stakeholders, including Arua City Council Officials, former Members of Parliament, religious leaders, local officials, and community representatives to discuss the development plans for Arua Central Forest Reserve. 

At the meeting, Wadri Sam Nyakua, the Mayor of Arua City, confirmed that the project was halted because the architectural plan did not align with the requirements for an eco-tourism centre. The City Mayor also revealed that Oguzu’s plan was lacking numerous technical details, and as a result, it was returned for revision which updates to date have not been made.

 “The deferment of this plan from March 2021 to date is not because the leaders are selfish. The deferment is also not because the Ayivu people are against Oguzu,” the Mayor asserted.                                                

Wadri Kasiano Ezati, the former Member of Parliament for Arua Municipality, also alluded that during their initial consultative meeting on the proposed project on November 10th, 2022, where representatives from the National Building Control Board were in attendance, they discovered that the architectural plan presented required more detailed information. 

“I can clearly recall that the architectural design submitted then to Arua city for approval was not eco-tourism. There was also further guidance from the technical people that the developer must go back and revise the architectural plan,’ Kasiano reiterated. 

Some of the local leaders present at the Consultative Meeting.

Oguzu Lee Denis, the developer, explained that he had the opportunity to establish an Eco-Tourism Centre when he saw an advert by the National Forest Authority (NFA) which indicated that there was available land for various activities within the reserve. 

According to Oguzu, while the forest has provided benefits to society, there are also negative aspects associated with it. For example, the forest has become a source of insecurity for the people and a dumping ground for garbage. He was motivated to develop a plan that would safeguard the cultural legacy, conserve the cultural flora, and provide prospects for the inhabitants of Arua.

“My aim is to give ecological and economic value to the forest through job creation, improved infrastructure, and eco-friendly architecture,” Oguzu explained.

Oguzu also revealed that he submitted his report on this project to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), which was approved, and he was given a certificate of compliance.

Giving his technical guidance, Charles Omona, Arua City Engineer, explained that the project plan submitted by Oguzu was designed as a recreation park rather than an Eco-Tourism Centre. The structures that were supposed to be built were permanent ones, whereas an Eco-Tourism Centre requires semi-permanent structures that do not emit heat easily.

The City Engineer stated that there were no provisions by the developer on how to conserve and manage the water from the swimming pools, and the architectural designs were not certified by a registered architect. According to the engineer, the project was submitted after the operational license had expired, prompting the City Council to defer the project until it meets the eco-tourism standards.

The developer however disagreed with the City Engineer's statements, claiming they were false. He pointed out that the letter the City Council sent him after he submitted the project plan did not mention the issues the Engineer raised.

Oguzu presented documents from the National Forestry Authority which granted him a 25-year lease for 20.4 acres of land stretching from the UNHCR offices to Muni University, following the required legal processes. 

Maracha County MP, Oguzu Lee Denis explaining the project details at the consultative meeting.

During the meeting, some of the attendees advised the developer to explore alternative locations, like Ajai Game Reserve in Madi Okollo District, for establishing his upcoming project. They argued that the Arua Central Reserve Forest should be preserved for the benefit of all.

Atiku Bernard, the Chairperson of Arua City Land Board, and former Member of Parliament for Ayivu Constituency, emphasized the importance of preserving the Barifa Forest Reserve as a treasured natural resource to the region. He urged all leaders to take necessary steps to ensure the forest's conservation. END

Left to Right - Atiku Bernard, Chairperson Arua City Land Board, Charles Asiki, Former Mayor Arua Municipality and Wadri Kassiano Ezati, Former MP Arua Municipality at the meeting.