Earth Finds

Earth Finds

NEMA Needs To Improve Draft ESIA Regulations

By Sunshine Nalule

I would like to commend the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for putting in place a number of regulations including the Petroleum (Waste Management) Regulations of 2019, the National Environment (Audit) Regulations of 2020 and others.

In 2019, the president signed into law the 2019 National Environment Act. The new law replaced the old one, the 1995 National Environment Act, because the old law did not provide for emerging challenges such as oil and gas exploitation, climate change and others.

To operationalise the 2019 National Environment Act, it was necessary for the Ministry of Water and Environment in addition to NEMA to put in place the regulations prescribed by the law. Without the regulations, it is hard to enforce the new law. It is therefore commendable that NEMA has taken a step in the right direction and has put in place some regulations.

Today, I call on NEMA to complete and put in place the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) regulations as required by the new law.

The above regulations are needed to govern over ESIA processes. The 2019 National Environment Act prescribes the mandatory conduct of ESIA studies for petroleum, transport, infrastructure and other projects listed under Schedule 5 of the Act.

The conduct of ESIA is necessary for the avoidance, minimisation or mitigation of the environmental and social impacts, risks or concerns of degrading projects.

Amidst the ongoing oil exploitation, oil roads construction, planned water abstraction from Lake Albert to support oil activities and others, the ESIA regulations are urgently needed for the protection of the environment and livelihoods.

While completing and operationalising the regulations, I call upon NEMA to avoid stifling public participation and accountability in ESIA processes through the regulations.

In a memorandum of proposals to fill gaps in the Draft 2019 ESIA regulations that 13 civil society organisations (CSOs) led by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) sent to NEMA in October 2019, the CSOs raised key concerns.

Among them was the fact that NEMA was trying to:

  • Give itself powers to determine whether to invite members of the public in the affected area, and not all Ugandans, to make written and oral comments on an ESIA.
  • Give itself powers to determine whether a public hearing on an ESIA was necessary.
  • Reduce the number of days within which a notice inviting the public to a public hearing would be made. This will deny the public the time needed to review and make meaningful comments on an ESIA.
  • Stop the poor from accessing ESIA documents through prescribing a fee.
  • Undermine the involvement of affected cross-border communities in ESIA processes among others.

The above weaknesses stand to stifle accountability, public participation and promote corruption, undermining environmental conservation and efforts to protect community livelihoods.

NEMA should therefore act on the recommendations that the CSOs made to promote good environmental governance.

Why Uganda May Not Escape The Oil And Gas Curse

By Patrick Edema

The government of Uganda has invested a huge amount of money in the oil and gas sector before oil production commences in the country.

An estimated $3.5 billion was invested in the sector during the first exploration phase and more investments are being made to explore for oil in the Kanywataba oil well in South Western Uganda and Ngassa which is found near Lake Albert. 

In addition, it is expected that up to $20 billion will be injected in Uganda’s oil and gas sector during the development phase before oil production commences.

This money, which will largely be borrowed by the Ugandan government and international oil companies, will be used to finance the construction of an oil refinery, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the finished petroleum products pipeline, roads, an international airport, airstrips and other infrastructure needed to commercialize Uganda’s oil and gas.

With countries increasingly prioritizing the use of clean renewable energy over oil and gas, is it not financially viable for Uganda to invest a sum of money $20 billion that is only $9 billion of Uganda’s GDP of $29 billion? 

It is also important to note that Uganda’s 6.5 billion oil and gas resources are located in the eco-sensitive Albertine Rift. The rift is an important biodiversity hot spot that is a habitat for over half (51%) of Africa’s bird species, 39% of Africa’s mammal species, and 19% of Africa’s amphibian species.

The rift is also home to 70% of Uganda’s major protected areas including seven out of ten national parks, eight out of 15 forests, 12 wildlife reserves, 13 wildlife sanctuaries and five wildlife community areas. 

The above environmental resources and the biodiversity therein support Uganda’s $1.6 billion tourism industry, $2.005 billion agricultural sector and the $171 million fisheries sector among others (2018 and 2019 figures). The resources also provide employment to over 5.3 million Ugandans in the various sectors.

Furthermore, the resources and biodiversity also have cultural, recreational and other values that communities and Ugandans attach importance to. 

Because of the location of Uganda’s oil and gas resources, the above sectors or industries stand to be disrupted as has been seen in oil producing countries such as DR Congo, Ecuador and Nigeria where fisheries and agriculture were destroyed due to oil spills to the environment and water sources.

The oil and gas sector in Uganda risks billion- and million-dollar industries in agriculture and fisheries and at the same time threatening employment opportunities of over 5.3 million Ugandans. This, therefore, poses a question as to whether it is viable for Uganda to exploit oil especially in eco-sensitive areas especially at a time when countries that are expected to consume Uganda’s oil and gas resources are transitioning to use of clean energy. 

It is moreover estimated that Uganda’s oil and gas sector will only create just over 16,000 direct and indirect job opportunities and will earn the country $2 billion in annual revenues per year. It is not prudent to invest in the oil and gas sector when countries are aggressively planning to reduce the consumption of oil and gas among other dirty energy options. 

It is therefore no doubt that the energy transition efforts that are going on worldwide will have an impact on the viability of and job prospects in Uganda’s oil and gas sector. The profitability and job opportunities will reduce. 

Government’s investment in the oil and gas sector at a time when an energy transition is ongoing and even the European oil and gas majors are reducing investment in the sector will also mean that Uganda will be stuck with infrastructure that provides less value than the investment made in the infrastructure.

Ugandans could also be forced to continue depending on oil and gas, which has grave negative impacts on the environment, climate change efforts, health and human rights.

Therefore, for the country to prevent a resource curse, the government needs to rethink investment in the oil and gas sector and promote clean renewable energy particularly wind and solar power. 

Patrick Edema

Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)


Sanyu FM Rewards Employee Who Walked To Work During Lockdown With Motorcycle

Loyalty is a key aspect in life and Steven Kyaka, the traffic controller at 88.2 Sanyu FM, exhibited just that when he trekked over 20km daily, from Bulobo to come to Kampala city centre, to report for work at the radio station for three months.

And for his loyalty, Kyaka has been rewarded with a brand-new motorcycle Bajaj Boxer by Sanyu FM Managing Director Rajiv Ruparelia. Rajiv praised and commended Kyaka for his commitment and passion for his job.

“From the time I heard the story of Steven Kyaka, Head of traffic at 88.2 Sanyu FM walking from Buloba to Kampala every day. We knew as “Sanyu” (happiness), we had to put a smile on his face & today we gifted a brand-new bike to him to assist with his travels,” Rajiv said.

The station's Chief operations officer Betsy Mugamba handed over the motorcycle and its documentation to Kyaka. She noted that he has been working at the station for the last seven years.

“He stood out because during COVID time when we were all under lockdown, Kyaka decided to walk to work every morning” Mrs Mugamba said.

“He does not live in Bukoto, Nalya or Kololo; he lives in Buloba. It’s quite far from his workstation but he walked from Buloba to Kampala for 3 months”.

Kyaka in his remarks said the respect for his work acted as a driving force to walk from home to work every day.

“I felt so bad about the presidential directives on COVID 19 which included curfew and suspension of public transport.

From then I knew keeping a job would be ‘survival for the fittest because I stay very far in Buloba, no way the staff van could come to pick and drop me,” he said.

“I was advised by management to stay home until the lockdown is lifted but I had to be around with the aim of delivering positive results and keeping my job. I decided to walk to work”.

Sanyu FM Unveils Hot Mic Search Top 50 Semi Finalists

Uganda’s leading English-speaking radio station 88.2 Sanyu FM has today unveiled the top 50 semifinalists in the ongoing Sanyu FM Hot Mic Search.

The new Sanyu FM Programs Director Roger Mugisha revealed that the search returned over 1300 entries which have now been reduced to top 50. From this stage onwards will select the top 20 and then final 10, Mugisha said.

 Mugisha explained that contestants will now be required to use their social media platforms to promote Sanyu FM. “The number of likes contributes 60% of their total votes while 40% is from our judges”.

“Everyone will be assigned a number; we will know you as ABC No 49” Mugisha told the contestants. Go tell your friends to tell their friends to support you on our pages. we have between now and 15 July'”.

He explained that the talent search is free of charge and that thus no one should approach them for a bribe to help them reach the final stage.

The winner of ‘Hot mic search will take home cash prize worth Shs3 million as well as a presenter job with a two-year contract offer.

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