The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has ordered Hoima Sugar Limited to restore degraded parts of Kikuube mixed land-use project area.
It should be remembered that NEMA issued the company an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate on August 14,2020 to implement the above project, under specific conditions.
Accordingly, the components of the project included; a sugarcane plantation (9.24 square miles, urban centre, eco-tourism centre, cultural site and the natural reserved forest and nature walk-ways/trails.
However, NEMA says that following the review of the Audit report in June 2022 and its further investigations including ground inspections in September 2022, it has been established there was deforestation of the natural reserved forest areas contrary to approval condition.
“As result of this, the area of natural forests that was supposed be protected has been affected severely degraded (Figure 1). 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,” NEMA said in a Tuesday’s statement.
The above findings according to NEMA, amount to breach of conditions of approval of certificate issued to the company contrary to section 157(f) of the National Environment Act, 2019.
Now, the environmental body has issued new orders to the company to prevent any further damage to the forest.
Among the orders, the company has been told to immediately stop any further deforestation of the natural reserved forest area, eco-tourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for urban centre.
NEMA has also ordered that no sugar cane should be planted in the natural reserve forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites area and land reserved for urban center.
“The sugar cane MUST be restricted to area permitted in the certificate,” NEMA ordered.
Furthermore, the 312.3 hectares earlier approved for the urban centre has been halted to be kept as a natural forest in view of the country’s efforts to recover forest cover loss.
The company has also been ordered to restore all degraded areas of the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for urban centre amongst other conditions.
NEMA warned that failure to comply with the given instructions will result in NEMA cancelling the ESIA certificate and further legal actions against Hoima Sugar Ltd, further urging developers to abide by conditions of approval in environment and social impact certificates.
“NEMA will not relent on efforts to ensure that development projects are undertaken in a sustainable manner and that the environment is not compromised,” the body noted.
Hoima Sugar responds
Following the order issued by NEMA, Hoima Sugar, on Tuesday, issued a statement and stated that all clearing activities carried out by the company for the establishment of the sugar cane estate have been done with adherence to the coordinates in the ESIA licence.
However, the company, blamed the degradation on ‘illegal trespassers’ it says have been engaging in logging and charcoal burning ever since the project began.
Hoima Sugar added that efforts to get rid of the trespassers from the land were futile due to their hostility to the company staff.
“The trespassers were extremely hostile to our staff and we were advised by security officials to withdraw from the area in order to avoid any violence. We followed this advice and took up the matter in writing with the appropriate authorities to take action against these illegal trespassers. It was only in April 2022 that we were able to regain access to these areas,” Hoima Sugar stated.
However, the company agreed with the order from NEMA to undertake the restoration of the damaged areas.
“We commit to restoring these damaged areas with strict adherence to a NEMA approved restoration plan.” the company said.