Hoima Sugar has been accused of destroying part of Bugoma forest
Hoima Sugar Limited is on the spotlight for allegedly breaching the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) guidelines issued to the company.
The company leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma central forest reserve land from the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom for sugarcane growing for 99 years.
However, the National Environment Management Authority -NEMA found 13 of the 22 square miles unfit for a sugar plantation and recommended their preservation since it’s a wetland and forest reserve.
As a result, NEMA allowed Hoima sugar factory to cultivate sugarcane on the remaining 9.24 square miles covering the grassland, establish an urban center on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism centre on 1.97 square miles and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve.
They also recommended the preservation of another 0.156 hectares for a cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.
However, according to a new report released by the National Environment Management Authority- NEMA dated September 27, on the activities being conducted by Hoima sugar limited on the piece of land it leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, the company breached some of the key guidelines agreed upon in the ESIA Certificate issued to them.
According to NEMA, though Hoima Sugar limited submitted an environmental and social audit report for the sugar cane project in June 2022, a review of the Audit report and NEMA’s investigations including ground inspections in September revealed that there was deforestation of the natural, reserved forest areas contrary to approval condition 4.3(I)(C) adding that as a result of this, the area of natural forests that was supposed to be protected has been severely degraded.
The report further reveals that there was destruction 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.
According to NEMA, the above findings and destruction made by Hoima Sugar Limited amount to breach of conditions of approval of the NEMA certificate issued to the company contrary to section 157(f) of the National Environment Act,2019.
As a result, NEMA has directed Hoima Sugar Limited to immediately stop any further deforestation of the natural reserved forest area, Eco-tourism area and cultural sites.
The authority has further instructed that no sugar cane should be planted in the natural reserved forest area, Eco-tourism area, cultural sites area and land reserved for urban center and that sugar cane “must “be restricted to area permitted in the certificate. It further demanded that the 312.3hectares earlier approved for the urban center is halted, to be kept as a natural forest in view of the country’s efforts to recover forest cover loss.
NEMA in the report directed that the Sugar company should restore all the degraded areas of the natural reserved forest, eco-tourism area, cultural sites and land reserved for an urban center adding that the company should prepare a restoration plan for the degraded areas in consultation with Forestry sector support department of the ministry of water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda wildlife Authority-UWA and submit the same to the Authority (NEMA) among other guidelines.
According to NEMA, failure to comply with the given instructions will result in NEMA canceling the ESIA certificate and further legal actions against Hoima Sugar limited.
Isreal Odit, the Communications Manager at Hoima Sugar Limited when contacted by URN, says his office had not yet been furnished with the report from NEMA adding that he is yet to consult with his superiors.
He however says, currently the company is only operating on the 9.24 square miles of land that they leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.
Raja Desing, the manager production who doubles as the Acting General Manager Hoima Sugar Limited could not be reached for a comment as our repeated phone calls to his known mobile telephone number went unanswered.