NEMA REGISTERS ANOTHER LEGAL VICTORY AS COURT DISMISSES WITH COSTS A LOCAL NGO ‘S CASE ABOUT LAND NEAR BUGOMA FOREST

The High Court has dismissed with costs an application filed by Water and Environment Media Network (U) Ltd -a local NGO, seeking for a temporary injunction to stop National Environment Management Authority, (NEMA) from implementing a certificate of approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which was issued to Hoima Sugar Ltd to implement a development project near Bugoma forest .

NEMA issued the certificate of approval in respect of Kyangwali Mixed Land Use Project after it had satisfied itself that the project being implemented on Bunyoro kingdom land would not in any way negatively impact on the environmental echo system of Bugoma forest as alleged by some activists sponsored by foreign agents.

In an affidavit sworn by Mutale Joshua and filed in court it was alleged that NEMA had not followed the right procedures when it issued the certificate of approval and that the complainant had instituted a suit for judicial review and therefore there was need for a temporary injunction to be granted by court. That if the project was it would threaten to change the land use of the part of and areas around Bugoma Forest.

In their  response to the allegations , in an affidavit sworn by Francis Ogwal , the Natural Resources Manager (Biodiversity)  , NEMA contended that the certificate they issued to Hoima Sugar Ltd  was in respect of land where the Kyangwali Mixed Land Use Project is situated- on Plot 216, Block 2 Buhaguzi Kyangwali Sub-County, Kikuube District and is the official property of the Omukama of the kingdom of Bunyoro.

NEMA further argued in their response that the ESIA report was subjected to sufficient review, comments were sought and obtained from the relevant stakeholders, a baseline survey was carried out and the NEMA Executive Director properly exercised his powers under the National Environment Act and the attendant Rules.

It was further argued that NEMA exercised its statutory functions to incorporate comments which are in the best interest of the environment and society to ensure sustainable environment management and sustainable development in Uganda.

NEMA also told court that there is no controversy on the land surrounding Bugoma forest because the issue of ownership of the said land was resolved by the High Court in 2019 and that the Authority made public consultations and received sufficient comments from several agencies and all views were taken into consideration before they issued the certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd.

“Public hearings in the ordinary fashion could not be convened owing to the enactment of Public Health Control of COVID-19 Rules, SI No. 83 of 2020. But Public meetings were held by the developer prior to COVID-19. 10,” NEMA stated in their pleadings.

In his ruling justice Ssekanna Musa agreed with NEMA that Water and Environment Media Network (U) Ltd sought for a temporary injunction against a wrong party it is Hoima Sugar which is active possession of the land legally.

While dismissing the application with cost Judge Ssekanna   noted that NEMA rightly carried out a baseline verification survey and the activities of the respondent have been restricted on grassland area which is about 9 square miles out of the 22 square miles which they (Hoima Sugar Ltd) own. “

Therefore, it is not true that they are going to cut down trees as alleged but they are going to use that specific area marked out in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. This implies the temporary Injunction is sought on speculative grounds,” the Judge stated.

MOSES SSERWANGA

Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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