The Ugandan government has been dragged to the East African Court of Justice for giving away Bugoma forest reserve to an investor to grow sugarcanes.
In a suit filed before the regional court, the Environment Shield Limited and John Robert Turyakira, a human rights defend say it was illegal for National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to issue a certificate of approval of the environmental and social impact assessment to Hoima Sugar Limited giving a green light to growing of sugarcanes on 9.24 square miles.
“The project area neighbors Bugoma central forest reserve which was gazette in 1932 , a tropical high forest and home to over 600 chimpanzee and is part of its ecosystem. Sugarcane growing has adverse environmental and climate change impacts including pollution of water bodies, rivers and streams soiling water quality,” the court documents say.
The two petitioners say that before the approval of the project, NEMA ignored the climate change impact assessment as necessitated by the dictate of contemporary environment governance pursuant to the Constitution of Uganda.
They also say that NEMA never considered environmental costs connected with the potential deterioration of natural assets but also never carried out consultations within the communities surrounding the forest reserve.
“NEMA made the project approval without transparent, maximum and effective community or public participation or hearings in breach of the foundational principles of good governance, accountability, democracy , rule of law, transparency and universal human rights standards. The approval, therefore, threatens the area’s individuals’, community’s and public’s universal human rights standards.”
The petitioners now want the East African Court of Justice to direct government to cancel the certificate of approval issued to Hoima Sugar for sugarcane growing and related developments.
They also want the regional court to direct government to ensure that prior to any similar project approvals, it conducts climate change impact assessment and human rights impact assessment where the public is consulted.