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Hoima Sugar Limited in trouble over deforestation of natural reserved forest areas

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Hoima Sugar Limited in trouble over deforestation of natural reserved forest areas

Atukwasah Barirega the NEMA ED

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has ordered Hoima Sugar Limited to prepare a restoration plan for the degraded areas in consultation with the Forestry Sector Support Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (FSSD), National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and submit the same to this Authority for approval within a period of not more than three months from the date of this order.

The development comes after findings by NEMA that there was deforestation of the natural reserved forest areas contrary to approval condition 4.3 (i)(c) of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate No. NEMA/ESIA/13709 that was given to the company on 14th August 2020.

According to NEMA, Hoima Sugar Limited submitted an environmental and social audit report for the project in June 2022. However, a review of the Audit report and further investigations including ground inspections in September 2022 revealed that due to deforestation, the area of natural forests that was supposed to be protected has been affected severely degraded.
They also found that there was deforestation of the eco-tourism site contrary to approval condition 4.3 (i)(c) which has affected the quality of the site for eco-tourism purposes.

Section 4 of the Certificate given to Hoima Sugar Company Limited indicated specific conditions and components of the project as follows:

(a) Sugarcane Plantation (9.24 sq. miles / 2,393.8483 ha);
(b) Urban Centre (1.206 sq. miles / 312.3 ha);
(c) Eco-tourism Centre (1.97 sq. miles / 510.2277 ha);
(d) Cultural Site (0.156 sq. miles / 40.4038 ha);
(e) The natural reserved forest and nature walkways/trails (6.17 sq. miles/1,598.023 ha).

Now, NEMA says that its findings amount to a breach of conditions of approval of NEMA certificate issued to the company contrary to section 157(f) of the National Environment Act, 2019.

Accordingly, in the exercise of powers vested to the Authority under section 129 of the National Environment Act, 2019 has ordered that the company immediately Stop any further deforestation of the natural reserved forest area, eco-tourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for an urban centre in order to safeguard the environment and avoid any further damage to the environment.

“No sugar cane should be planted in the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites area and land reserved for the urban centre. The sugar cane MUST be restricted to the area permitted in the certificate, the 312.3ha earlier approved for the urban centre is halted to be kept as a natural forest in view of the country’s efforts to recover forest cover loss, and restore all degraded areas of the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for urban centre,” NEMA says.

The authority has also ordered Hoima Sugar Limited to prepare a restoration plan for the degraded areas in consultation with the Forestry Sector Support Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (FSSD), National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and submit the same to this Authority for approval within a period of not more than three months from the date of this order.

The company must also implement the Restoration Plan in 4 above at your cost with guidance from FSSD, NFA and UWA to the satisfaction of this Authority and permit third parties approved by this Authority who may wish to participate in the restoration process of the degraded areas as appropriate.

“Failure to comply with the given instructions will result in NEMA cancelling the ESIA certificate and further legal actions against Hoima Sugar Limited. We strongly urge developers to abide by conditions of approval in Environment and Social Impact Certificates,” NEMA warned.

The authority further says it will not relent on efforts to ensure that development projects are undertaken in a sustainable manner and that the environment is not compromised.

Sarah Biryomumaisho is a multitalented freelance journalist with 10 years of experience in broadcast and publishing. She has worked with several radio stations and online publications. Twitter; https://twitter.com/BiryomumaishoB

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