Breaking

Bugoma Forest Reserve Case; Parties to File Written Submissions

The trio want court to declare that NEMA omitted and didn't adhere to the mandatory principles of environment management before approving an environmental and Social Impact Assesment by the Sugar factory to grow sugarcane in the forest reserve.

Audio 1



The Civil Division of High Court in Kampala has ordered parties of the Bugoma Forest Reserve Case to file written submissions on issues of law raised by respondents.

Mid last year, the Uganda Law Society, the Environment Shield Limited and Resource Rights Africa sued the Hoima Sugar Ltd, Martin Aryagaruka, National Environment Management Authority-NEMA and the Attorney General over Hoima Sugar destruction of Bugoma Forest. The suit was filed days after Justice Musa Ssekaana dismissed another by other environmentalists against the giveaway of the forest reserve.

The trio want court to declare that NEMA omitted and didn't adhere to the mandatory principles of environment management before approving an environmental and Social Impact Assesment by the Sugar factory to grow sugarcane in the forest reserve. 

The applicants represented by Yiga Advocates and  Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates say that NEMA didn't adhere to principles of scrutiny of environmental protection standards, resilience to climate change and International Human Rights Standards which tantamounted to neglection of its duties.

They also state that NEMA didn't do enough research to know the environmental impact of clearing part of the forest for Sugar cane growing and never made public their Environmental Impact assessment and yet ignored the biodiversity analysis of Foresters, taxonomists, agriculturalists, soil scientists, hydrologists and economists.

They also want court to declare that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report by Hoima Sugar Ltd bas shallow, inaccurate and misleading hence threating the right of Ugandans tons descent, clean and healthy environment.

The case came up for hearing today before Justice Emmanuel Baguma; the respondents raised preliminary objections which they want court to rule on before proceeding to hear the main case. The objections include that the application was already determined upon by the same court and hence defective, that some affidavit were defective and also that there is no cause against the attorney general.

The parties agreed to file and serve their submissions of the objections by 2pm on 24th March and that the applicant responds by 2pm on 7th April while any rejoinders be filed and served by 21st April 2022. 

Counsel Shafik Hakeem Yiga who is representating the applicants says the good thing is that the case has kicked off and shall hence wait for the submissions of the respondents to respond to them.

//Cue in: "Ofcourse usually under...//

Cue out: ... the attorney general"//

Justice Baguma has also ordered responds to limit their submissions of objections to 15 pages excluding the authorities quoted. The authorities, he said should be highlighted rather than giving him entire judgements referred to by respondents in their submissions.

The ruling on the preliminary objections shall be delivered by email at 2pm on 21st June 2022.

Background

Bugoma, a tropical forest gazzeted in 1932, comprises 410 square kilometres of a protected area, and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometres. The forest is endowed with unique species of mammals, trees, birds, butterflies and moths. It is also a migratory route for wild animals and a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert, where oil has been discovered.

Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom offered a 99-year lease to Hoima Sugar Limited, to grow sugarcane on an area covering 22 square miles. But, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found 13 square miles, out of the 22 square miles, were unfit for sugar plantation; They were in a wetland and forest reserve, which should be conserved.

As a result, Hoima sugar was allowed to cultivate sugarcane on 9.24 square miles, covering an area that was entirely grassland and establish an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles of the land. Under the same Memorandum of Understanding, the Sugar Company was tasked to restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve, preserve 0.156 hectares for the cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.

But the plan was challenged by conservationists; comprising the Water and Environment Media Network, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists and the African Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO, who described the giveaway as a threat to the ecosystem and endangered species in the Forest Reserve. However, their suit which was filed before the Civil Division of the High Court was dismissed by Justice Musa Ssekaana on grounds that it contained distorted facts.