River Rwizi Restoration Ambition On Course Despite Pressure On Supporting Wetlands

Efforts to restore River Rwizi in western Uganda are picking up momentum with stakeholders each day emphasizing their commitment to having the water body restored to its natural state after many years of degradation.

This year, as part of the Water and Environment Week commemoration, a two-day symposium on the restoration of River Rwizi Catchment was planned on 19th and 20th March in Mbarara but a COVID-19 scare and a ban on the public gathering by President Yoweri Museveni reduced it to half a day on 19th March at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara.

The symposium convened by Advocates Coalition for Development (ACODE) in partnership with Ministry of Water & Environment (MWE), National Planning Authority (NPA), Mbarara District Local Government, Green Economy Coalition (GEC) and Youth Go Green was responding to the need to save River Rwizi.

The over 8,200km long river, commencing its gentle journey from its base in Buhweju & snaking through the hills and valleys of Ankole supplying domestic, agricultural and industrial water to people along its course connecting to Lake Victoria, its final destination, has suffered the wrath of the very people it serves.

River Rwizi, serving about 12 local government administrative districts in the vast great Ankole subregion has over the years been facing extinction due to human activities that have degraded wetlands surrounding it. Its water levels have significantly dried up.

Human activities like sand mining, industrial dumping, planting of eucalyptus trees, farming and intentional blocking of the river course have threatened its existence; something environmentalists who spoke at the symposium condemned and vowed to defeat through a multi-sectoral approach.

JB Tumusiime, the Mbarara District chairperson, also the chairman Rwizi Catchment Management Committee, noted that ministry of water and environment, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the district leadership alone cannot fight this vice and succeed.

“The restoration of degraded wetlands requires a multi-sectoral approach. It is everybody’s role. It is every leader’s role to make sure that we restore the wetlands,” Tumusiime said at the symposium encouraging politicians intending to vie for political offices not to interfere with the works of the technical team working to end degrading of wetlands supporting River Rwizi.

Innocent Nabaasa, an official from NEMA, in his presentation revealed that the ‘level of impunity’ by people permanently blocking the river is high.

“People no longer access water anymore. The river provides water for watering of animals. And because of the blockages due to unregulated human activities, the river is forced to change its course,” noted Nabaasa.

Louis Mugisha, of Victoria Management Zone at the ministry of water and environment, in agreement with Nabaasa acknowledged that they have lived with the impunity for too long it has been normalized.

He said the ministry is working on restoring wetlands, working on enhancing of water storage at various catchment centres, demarcating River Rwizi, fundraising for needed funds, improving livelihoods of people living around the affected water bodies among other interventions.

Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of ACODE, noted that the experience of River Rwizi will guide them on how to approach other water bodies facing similar challenges in the country.

 

“River Rwizi is not the only river suffering. River Mpologoma and River Kafu are rivers that are dying and the experience we get here is what we will use to work on these other rivers,” Dr Bainomugisha said.

The minister and other stakeholders used the symposium to launch the Rwizi Management Plan before planting symbolic trees in the backyard of Lake View Hotel as a commitment to continue protecting the environment. The theme of the symposium was 'transition to a green economy in Uganda; restoration of River Rwizi Catchment for sustainable livelihoods,'. 

The minister of state for environment Beatrice Anywar in her speech commended the intervention by various stakeholders but noted the need to involve more stakeholders. "We need to do more. Stop degrading our environment. In the near future, we shall not want the use of plastics in this country. Talking must stop and take action." 

Uganda Citizens Alliance Partners With National Water And Sewerage Cooperation

Uganda Citizens Alliance (UCA) in partnership with National Water and Sewerage Cooperation (NWSC) are set to implement a one-year project aimed at advocating for the protection and conservation of wetlands in Western and South Western Uganda.

The project dubbed “advocacy and community sensitization campaigns on water sources protection” will cost over Sh170 million and will be implemented in 18 districts which include, Hoima, Masindi, Kibaale Fort Portal, Lyantonde, Mbarara Ibanda, Mpondwe, Ntungamo, Bushenyi and Kanungu among others.

Elly Muhwezi, the program coordinator-UCA says the project was initiated following the increased environmental degradation which has resulted into the change in agricultural seasons, prolonged drought and drying of most traditional water sources.

He disclosed that widespread drainage and encroachment of water sources for agriculture, eucalyptus growing in catchment areas, low adherence to laws, limited funding for the mandated sector and deforestation are some of the drivers of environmental degradation.

Deo Atuhire, the UCA executive director says the three major traditional water sources such in the region which include River Kafu, River Muzizi and Mpaga are drying up due to encroachment.

He attributed the increasing encroachment on sensitive ecological areas on political interference and called on leaders to join the fight against environmental conservation.

Atanazio Tugume, the acting manager NWSC Hoima branch says, they implemented several projects aimed at conserving the environment.

He says degradation of the environment and encroachment on water sources is affecting the efforts of NWSC to supply water to communities due to the drying up of water catchment areas such as River Wambabya and Kafu.

 

Cannabis Business To Create Jobs, Bring In Foreign Currency- Says Premier Hemp Boss

The world is turning to cannabis not only for its medical values but also its trade benefits and Uganda cannot afford to miss out, Rajiv Ruparelia, the managing director of Premier Hemp, one of the local companies eying growing the medicinal herb told local radio in an exclusive interview.

 “It will bring in foreign currency, the global cannabis phenomena is taking off. Uganda has one of the best environments, it has cheap labour force, availability of land. So, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this,” Rajiv said.

“Like I said we need to be forward-thinking not following every other nation. So, I am very proud of our cabinet, I am very proud of our MPs because they have taken this initiative to drive it faster than our neighbours and this is going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Uganda.”

“If cabinet can sit down and pass this bill because it is going to be a game-changer for Uganda, it will inspire new industries to evolve and the speed at which they have driven this is phenomenal.”

Premier Hemp as part of Rupelia group of Companies plans to leverage its vast agriculture expertise - they own Rosebud Limited and Premier Roses who together control about 40% of Uganda’s flower export business – to grow Medical Marijuana on a commercial scale.

The company is one of over 20 companies that have applied for a production license that is pending cabinet clearance of policy guidelines on the production and processing for export of medical marijuana.

In January, according to Daily Monitor, the government sets strict rules for marijuana growing. Now individuals and companies seeking to grow or export marijuana for medical purposes will be required to present minimum capital of $5m (Shs18.3b) and a bank guarantee of Shs4b.

Investors will also be required to present a tax clearance certificate from the Uganda Revenue Authority, lists of employees and their job descriptions, a valid trading licence, evidence of value addition to cannabis and audited accounts.

South Sudan Invites Bids For Environmental Audit Tender In Country's Oilfields

The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has announced a tender for a comprehensive environmental audit of all the country's producing oilfields.

The Petroleum Act of 2012, enacted a year after independence, governs the oil sector in South Sudan. The Act is designed to better manage the environmental impact of the sector after years of neglect prior to independence, and the resulting pollution.

Civil war also prevented the proper management of the environment, based on environmentally, socially and economically sustainable principles.

South Sudan is now faced with the challenge of balancing developmental needs with the spirit of environmental protection enshrined in the Petroleum Act. The sector has in the past caused a loss of grazing land, deforestation, soil and water contamination, and health issues in and around oil-producing areas.

President Salva Kiir, writing in the South Sudan First State of Environment and Outlook Report in 2018, explained the country's desire to become the bread basket and economic powerhouse of East Central Africa.

"The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oilfields and in the surrounding areas. This trend needs to be checked through the formulation of environmental policies, standards and guidelines, and enforcement of these instruments."

Ahead of any new exploration and drilling the government has committed to conducting an environmental audit. Minister of Petroleum, Hon. Awow Daniel Chuang, explains that understanding the pollution damage will allow the country to put systems in place to prevent further damage as the country looks to ramp up production.

At a media briefing late in August 2019 in Juba, President Salva Kiir warned that his government would be taking a stronger stance against pollution in oil-producing areas. And while the government is eager to welcome new exploration and production, companies would be held to a high standard. The era of "bad business" was coming to an end.

He warned, "I will not tolerate irresponsible activities in the oil sector."

An international independent organization will now be appointed to conduct the audit, mandated to suggest best practices for new exploration as well as ways to repair the historical damage in South Sudan.

Tender pre-qualification documents for conducting a Full Environmental Audit will be available during office hours at the Ministry of Petroleum's headquarters in Juba, and from its website http://bit.ly/2NauFKA. The documentation will be available between 13 and 20 January 2020.

Completed documentation needs to be submitted by 16h00, 20 January 2020 to:

1. Electronic Submissions:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. Hardcopy Submissions to be delivered in a sealed envelope addressed to:
Environmental Audit Tender Committee Secretary
Ministry of Petroleum HQ
Ministries Road, Juba
Republic of South Sudan
PO Box 376

Rugunda Says Govt Is Investigating Attorney General Over Land Grabbing

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga allegedly, through his company Pine Investments Limited, dubiously acquired land which formerly belonged to Nakasero Primary School and now he is being investigated, the Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament.

“Government is going to investigate these allegations. In the next sitting, the government will provide a preliminary report about this matter, we take allegations being made seriously especially ownership of the land,” Eagle Online quotes Rugunda as saying while responding to MP Latiff Ssebaggala who warned that taxpayers are bound to lose billions if government proceeds to buy the land from Byaruhanga.

Sebaggala took to the floor of Parliament requesting both the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Rugunda to confront Byaruhanga, saying that officials from the Ministry of Finance were planning to award Byaruhanga’s Pine Investments Co, a contract to sale land for the construction of headquarters AfroExim Bank.

“We are likely to lose tax payer’s money, the land which they are putting pressure that Government buys was part of Nakasero Primary School land and it was taken under unclear circumstances and they are selling it back to Government,” Ssebaggala said.

This comes amidst media reports that a whistleblower petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on grounds that Pine Investments Co, was being fronted to win the contract to sell three acres of land to the Ministry of Finance to construct headquarters of Afro Exim bank in Uganda.

This was after officials of Afro Exim Bank approached President Yoweri Museveni with a proposal to build a bank in Uganda, a proposal the president welcomed with a conditionality for the bank to establish its headquarters in Uganda.

Four companies are said to have expressed interest in selling land including; Pine Investments Co which offered 2.2 acres near Nakasero Primary School at $4 million (about Shs14.676 billion) per acre, Vara Enterprise offered 2.4 acres in Bugolobi with the company settling for $3.1 million (about Shs11.366 billion). SGL proposed three acres at Kololo Lugogo bypass at $2.7 million (about Shs 9.896 billion).

Kadaga asked the Prime Minister to assure the country that government won’t be duped into buying the land whose ownership is under contention.

“That is a serious allegation if it is true if the land being sold is actually government land at an exorbitant price and possibly involving a member of your cabinet cost. Can you undertake that nothing shall happen, that government will not be forced to buy that land before you come back to this house,” Kadaga said.

AfDB At COP25 Urges African Nations To Persist With Climate Change Ambitions

The African Development Bank has urged the continent’s nations to stay the course on climate action, after a marathon session of talks at the twenty-fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid.

The conference was scheduled to run from 2 to 13 December but only concluded business on Sunday, two days after the official programme ended.

Meanwhile, back home, Africans were reminded of the all-too-real consequences if these talks fail to deliver results. Thousands of East Africans have been displaced in the wake of heavy rains that have battered the region since October, and more wet weather is expected due to an Indian Ocean Dipole attributed to the warming of the ocean.

Such extreme weather events should galvanise Africans; their governments are spending 2% of GDP on climate related disasters, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank. He encouraged the global community to remain steadfast in finding effective solutions to climate change. The annual negotiations are now in their 25th year.

“The global community, and in particular Africa has a lot to offer in terms of solutions; what is evidently lacking is the global political will to turn potential into wealth to serve humanity and the planet,” said Nyong, who led the Bank’s delegation to the UN conference.

At the conference, African delegates pushed for support for climate finance to build resilience against the impact of climate change and for special consideration for Africa around targets contained in the treaties under discussion.

The discussions at COP 25 centred around the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to cut carbon emissions to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C by the end of this century while attempting to contain it within 1.5°C. The conference ended with a declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.

The African Development Bank attended the conference to lend strategic support to its regional member countries in the negotiations.

Nyong pointed out that Africa is committed; 51 of the 54 African countries have already ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement signed at the landmark COP21 in Paris. The NDCs are specific climate change targets that each country must set.

Support for the Bank-funded Desert to Power project highlighted Africa’s determination to strive for a climate-friendly world, especially for its local populations, said Nyong. Desert to Power is a $20 billion initiative to deploy solar energy solutions across the entire Sahel region, generating 10,000 MW to provide 250 million people with clean electricity.

“The African Development Bank stands ready as ever to assist its regional member countries to build resilience against climate change, as indicated by the Bank’s decision to join the Alliance for Hydromet Development, announced at COP 25. The Alliance will assist developing countries to build resilience against the impact of natural disasters caused by extreme weather,” Nyong said.

The Bank will also continue to drive initiatives to strengthen the ability of regional member countries to advocate robustly at global forums such as COP 25, Nyong added. One example was the Bank’s participation at the annual African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and support for the Africa Group of Negotiations (AGN).

“We look forward to engaging further with regional member countries and other parties to ensure that the continent’s development agenda remains on track,” Nyong added.

Leaders and institutions from 196 nations plus the European Union, who have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, attended the conference in Madrid.

AfDB, Partners To Help Developing Countries Resist Extreme Weather

The African Development Bank has joined forces with 11 other international organizations to assist developing countries to build resilience against the impact of natural disasters caused by extreme weather.

Following a series of deadly weather events that have caused widespread destruction, especially in Africa, the institutions came together at the COP 25 climate change conference in Madrid on Tuesday to launch the Alliance for Hydromet Development

“The science is clear: the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

“Ambitious climate action requires countries to be equipped with the most reliable warning systems and best available climate information services. Many developing countries are facing capacity constraints to provide these services. The Alliance is the vehicle to collectively scale up our support to the most vulnerable.”

The members of the Alliance have committed to ramping up action that strengthens the capacity of developing countries to deliver high-quality weather forecasts, early warning systems, hydrological and climate services. Known for short as “hydromet” services, these underpin resilient development by protecting lives, property and livelihoods.

“The African Development Bank joins the Alliance in recognizing the gap in the limited capacity of African countries to address vulnerability to extreme climate shocks,” said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank.

“Through the Hydromet Alliance, we are committed to doubling our climate finance support to African countries and will work with them to transition from dealing with disaster emergencies to building resilience against the impacts of extreme weather events.”

The founding members of the Alliance for Hydromet Development are the Adaptation Fund, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Global Environment FacilityGreen Climate Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, the World Food Programme and the World Meteorological Organization

Members of the Alliance have committed to unite their efforts in four areas: by strengthening capacity to operate observational systems and seeking innovative ways to finance observations; by boosting capacity for science-based mitigation and adaptation planning; thirdly, by strengthening early warning systems, for improved disaster risk management (this would involve developing multi-hazard national warning systems, comprising better risk information, forecasting capabilities, warning dissemination, and anticipatory response).

The members also agreed to boost investments for better effectiveness and sustainability. This would include systematically strengthening the World Meteorological Organization integrated global, regional and national operational hydromet system .

The actions of the Alliance to close the hydromet capacity gap are guided by the principles of UN agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

The Alliance is open for membership to all public international development, humanitarian, and financial institutions that assist the hydromet capacity of developing countries.

Civil Society Writes To ERA Demanding For Banang's Technical Capacity Profile

Fifteen Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have written to the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) demanding that the regulator provides them with information regarding Banang Power and Energy Limited and its technical capacity and financial standing that will enable the company to undertake a feasibility study for a dam to be constructed at the Uhuru Falls in an environmental and human rights compatible manner.

The letter signed by Yoram Banyenzai, the Chairperson of Guild Presidents' Forum on Governance (GPFOG) also requested ERA to provide them with information that shows how Bonang was procured to conduct a feasibility study for a dam at Uhuru Falls.

The CSOs say that while ERA invited communities and stakeholders to make comments on Banang Power and Energy Limited application to be granted a license to establish a 360MW hydropower plant at Murchison Falls, a chorused public outcry made it clear that no hydropower dam should be erected at the falls.

The environmentalists and tourism enthusiasts enjoyed temporary victory in August when Ephraim Kamuntu told the public that the cabinet had agreed to stop the planned dam at Murchison Falls.

But only three months later, in November, the cabinet approved a feasibility study to be undertaken for the development of a dam at the Uhuru Falls which are located near Murchison Falls. Experts say a dam at Uhuru would affect Murchison Falls.

Even with protests by the public and environmentalists, the minister for energy Irene Muloni this month told journalists that an MoU had been signed with Banang to undertake the feasibility study.

It is upon this background that the CSOs are requesting that ERA provides them with information about Banang's technical and financial capacity to carry out the study and the process through which Banang was selected.

"Our requests are made in light of the fact that our investigations on Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Ltd led us to believe that the company lacks the technical and financial track record needed to undertake a feasibility study and develop a dam in an environmental and human rights compatible manner.

"We cannot let a company whose track record on the construction of hydropower dams is unclear to touch the iconic Murchison Falls, which are visited by over 30% of the 100,000 tourists that visit Murchison Falls National Park," the letter reads in part.

The CSOs in a statement they shared say a background check on Banang revealed that the company was first registered in January 2014 with a one Ernest Moloi as director before being deregistered in April 2017 due to failure to file annual returns.

The company was then re-registered in December 2017 and filed its annual returns on June 26, 2019. Investigations by the CSOs also revealed that before relocating to a yet to be known place, Banang rented a virtual office.

"Surely, a company that seems to have no office of its own, lacks a web presence, lacks clear information on what hydropower projects it has undertaken cannot be trusted with one of Uganda’s most prized tourist attractions, the Murchison and Uhuru Falls.

An investigation of the hydropower works that Bonang Power and Energy Ltd has undertaken reveals unconvincing results. On its website before it was pulled down, the company listed hydropower projects that were ongoing in Africa,” the CSOs say in the letter. 

Climate Change Development Partners Believe Africa's Future Depends On Solidarity

There was standing room only as ministers, diplomats, activists and journalists gathered at the IFEMA conference centre in Madrid to mark Africa Day at the COP 25 climate meeting. Speakers called for a united front to tackle the challenges of climate change in Africa.

In the opening statement for Africa Day on Tuesday, Yasmin Fouad, Egypt's Minister of Environmental Affairs, on behalf of the African Union, said: "We have, and will continue to engage and to seek landing grounds on the outstanding issues.

But we must flag our concern at the apparent reluctance by our interlocutors to engage on issues of priority to developing countries, as evidenced by the large number of such issues which have simply been pushed from session to session without any progress."

Africa contributes the least to global warming emissions yet is the continent most vulnerable to climate change, as witnessed by devastating natural disasters recently. Africa Day has been held at the conference every year since COP 17 in 2011 to rally support for the continent's cause.

"The climate disaster issues confronting the continent demand a predictable and unified response," said UN ASG Mohamed Beavogui, Director General of African Risk Capacity, an agency of the African Union that helps governments respond to natural disasters.

"Africa needs to move towards market-based innovative financing models to achieve a strong, united, resilient and globally influential continent. The future of Africa depends on solidarity."

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the ECA would support African countries to revise their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to attract private sector investments in clean energy.

"The lack of concerted and meaningful global ambition and action to tackle climate change poses an existential threat to African populations," Songwe said.

The Paris Agreement is the guiding force of current climate negotiations. It calls on nations to curb temperature increases at 2°C by the end of this century, while attempting to contain rises within 1.5°C. The next step is to implement NDCs, which set out national targets under the Paris Agreement.

While African countries outlined bold aspirations to build climate resilient and low-carbon economies in their NDCs, the continent's position is that it should not be treated the same as developed nations as its carbon emissions constitute a fraction of the world's big economies.

"The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) remains committed to partnering with other institutions in providing the requisite support to AU member states in reviewing and updating their NDCs," said Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programmes at AUDA-NEPAD.

Barbara Creecy, South Africa's Environment Minister and current chair of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, said the Africa Day event should come up with new ideas to enhance the implementation of NDCs in Africa.

Africa is already responding positively to the challenge of climate change, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, citing huge investment interest in renewables at the Bank's Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg.

"Clearly, we are a continent that has what it takes to create the Africa that we want to see happen. I believe what has been the missing link is the ability to brand right and to act on the market signals," Nyong said. "We continue to present Africa as a vulnerable case and not as a business case with opportunities. In fact, where we have attempted the latter, the results have been spot-on."

Chief Fortune Charumbira, Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, said robust climate legislation was key.

"The world's response to the challenge has shown that legislation is imperative to cement efforts employed by various stakeholders; from the Paris Agreement to Nationally Determined Contributions," he said.

Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, said climate change affected sectors key to Africa's socio-economic development, such as agriculture, livestock and fisheries, energy, biodiversity and tourism. She called on African countries to take stock of the Paris Agreement, and its implementation around finance capacity building and technology.

Plan For Uganda To Legalize Marijuana Growing In Final Stages

Reports coming through are indicating that the Government of Uganda is in final stages of legalizing marijuana growing for mainly medical purposes.

Media reports say that Cabinet has set up a subcommittee to inquiry into a proposal of legalizing cannabis growing in the East African country.

The State Minister of Health for General Duties, Sarah Opendi, said the subcommittee is chaired by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Rugunda, according to Opendi is currently processing the proposal that will soon be discussed by cabinet to critically look at the issues of enforcement and regulation.

“We are hopeful that early next year we should be able to receive a report from this cabinet subcommittee and thereafter we should be able to make a decision,” Opendi told media.

Whereas the Ministry of Health says 14 companies have applied to acquire license to grow medical cannabis for export, reports indicate that the number of people and private companies seeking to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes has increased from 20 in April to 50 in July 2019.

The government is also under pressure from the various marijuana dealers to explain why they allowed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company working with another Israeli-based cannabis firm to grow marijuana in Kasese and “frustrated” others through “delaying tactics”. The company was given the license in 2016.

Among the ministries that will be in charge of issuing licenses to marijuana growing companies include; Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Justice, Internal Affairs, National Drug Authority (NDA) and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

The National Drug Policy and Authority Act, 1993 provides that “No person shall, without the written consent of the Health Minister… cultivate any plant from, which a narcotic drug can be extracted.”    

 

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