The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has issued a warning about the increasing levels of illegal commercial charcoal production in Uganda. The unregulated production of commercial charcoal is causing significant harm to the nation’s forests, air quality, and land, exacerbating the impacts of climate change, respiratory diseases, and the loss of productivity on the land.
According to the National Environment Act, No. 5 of 2019 Schedule 5, commercial charcoal production is an activity that requires mandatory Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). It is an offence under Section 157 of the Act to commence an activity that requires ESIA before obtaining a certificate of approval from NEMA. Anybody found engaging in commercial charcoal production without an ESIA certificate will face severe penalties.
“To date, NEMA has not issued any ESIA certificate for any commercial charcoal production, and as such, commercial charcoal production across the country is illegal,” said Barirega Akankwasah, the Executive Director of NEMA.
Akankwasah urged anyone interested in commercial charcoal production to have a sustainable source of charcoal wood in place, with mechanisms for sustainability rather than the wanton clearing of land. This can only be ascertained through an environmental and social impact assessment, as required by law.
“It does not matter if the land is private or public, gazetted or not gazetted. The Uganda Police, District Local Governments, NFA and all other Law Enforcement Agencies are requested to apprehend for prosecution anybody found engaging in commercial charcoal production without an ESIA Certificate by NEMA,” he added.
The warning comes as Uganda faces increased deforestation rates, with charcoal production cited as one of the major drivers of deforestation. NEMA’s call for sustainable charcoal production practices comes amid the country’s efforts to restore its forests, which have been depleted due to illegal activities, including charcoal burning.
“We need to work together to ensure that our forests are protected and our air quality improved. I urge all Ugandans to support these efforts by complying with the laws and regulations set in place by NEMA,” Akankwasah concluded.
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