The National Environment Management Authority-NEMA has granted Speke Hotel limited green light to resume works at its project site in Kitubulu, Katabi Town Council.
NEMA says that it has finally agreed with Speke Hotel (1996) Limited on measures for sustainable implementation of the Kitubulu Resort Project. This is contained in a letter dated July 28th, 2022.
Ruparelia Group of Companies is managed by Rajiv Ruparelia, Speke Hotel Limited wants to set up a hotel, sand beach, and a marina within the 200-meter buffer zone of Lake Victoria.
However, in December last year, NEMA halted the works at the site citing non-compliance with environmental laws. NEMA said there was “over breach of conditions in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment Certificate No. NEMA/EIA/11651 earlier issues to the developer by NEMA in 2010. The developer commenced work without a lakeshore user permit which is a legal requirement, and there were also concerns of siltation of Lake Victoria by the soil from the site.”
In April this year, NEMA officials led by Executive Director Dr Akankwasah Barirega and board members visited the site and asked the developer to adjust locations for the hotel, solid waste management site, and waste disposal system.
Barirega said then, that NEMA and the developer had not agreed on the implementation of some developments because some will be in the buffer zone and needed a permit as provided for in the National Environment (Wetlands, Riverbanks, and Lake Shores Management) Regulations, 2019.
This was the second time NEMA officials were visiting the site in three months. On December 8, 2021, Barirega led NEMA officials and the Environment Police Protection Unit to inspect the site. He ordered the developer to halt activities at the site when they found trucks dumping murram on the fringes of Lake Victoria.
However, in a statement released this morning, NEMA says it is satisfied with the developer’s review and readjustment of the project design, which must secure the lake from any potential negative impacts.
NEMA says the developer can resume work but under strict conditions to prevent the degradation of the protected zones.
The conditions among others are that “no permanent structures will be erected within 20 meters of the water line to protect the lake from potential siltation, no dumping of soil or other waste into the lake during construction and development phases, and no dredging of the lake is permitted in the first phase of construction, water at the site must be treated and that the water treatment plant must be relocated “as far back as possible in tandem with the coordinates provided by NEMA.”
Speke hotel should as a must, install beach or shoreline protection gabions under the technical guidance of the Directorate of Water Resources before construction to prevent soil and debris from being deposited into the lake by surface water runoff during the construction phase and that the community should have access to the beach side of the resort.
Maria Assumpta Nakamya alias Mama Nalubaale, who raised alarm over the environmental breaches last year says she is disappointed.
She says Rajiv Ruperalia and Ruperalia Group of Companies will continue degrading the environment if they are not prosecuted and fined for such breaches. She cites the example of the ongoing case against Rajiv Ruperalia at Entebbe court. “He has never appeared in court. So with such a statement saying he can resume work, do you expect anything to change? I’m really disappointed,” Nakamya said.
Entebbe Grade One Magistrate Elizabeth Kabugho issued summons against Rajiv Ruperalia over alleged environmental breaches. In a case that was first brought to court by lawyer Mabirizi, who instituted private prosecution proceedings last December.
Mabirizi accused Rajiv of dumping soil in and around the Lake Victoria shoreline, contrary to provisions in the National Environment Act, 2019.
Mabirizi said he moved to initiate private prosecution against Rajiv Ruparelia as a responsible citizen because NEMA and police would most likely not arrest or charge him for dumping soil in the lake.
He accused Rajiv Ruparelia, the Managing Director of Speke Hotel of undertaking activities in the protected zones along riverbanks, lakeshores, and natural beaches contrary to Section 53 of the National Environment Act, 2019.
The same Act provides for penalties, whereby a person on conviction may pay a fine not exceeding shillings 600 million or serve not more than 12 years in jail or both. However, on January 20, when Rajiv was expected to take a plea, State Attorney Timothy Amerit presented a January 6th, 2022 letter stating that the Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP has an interest in taking over Rajiv’s case file drawing protests from Mabirizi.