Bugoma Forest Case Sees light In Court of Appeal

On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, the Court of Appeal initiated the proceedings for the hearing of a case challenging the certificate issued by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), which granted approval for Hoima Sugar Limited’s developments on certain sections of the disputed Bugoma forest land.

The case, filed in May 2021, was brought forward by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and several members of the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC), including the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and the Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET).

In a session held in Kampala today, the Court of Appeal heard this case for the first time, which seeks the annulment of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate issued to Hoima Sugar Ltd (HSL). The ESIA certificate was granted in August 2020 for the development of the Kyangwali Mixed Land Use project, a decision that was met with opposition from environmentalists, who argued that the approval posed significant environmental risks to Bugoma, Uganda’s second largest forest reserve.

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One of the key concerns raised by the complainants was the lack of community consultations prior to the ESIA approval.

Outcomes of today’s court hearing:

– The Registrar of the Court of Appeal instructed both parties to submit conferencing notes within specified timelines. These notes will outline the main arguments and facts of the case presented by each party.

– The notes will also enumerate the issues that the court will need to determine.

– The deadline for filing the conferencing notes is set before the next hearing on October 6, 2023.

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Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the Chairperson of SBFC, expressed satisfaction that the court has initiated the process for hearing their case. However, he expressed disappointment at the delayed hearing, which has resulted in significant destruction of the forest that could have been prevented.

He remains optimistic that the court will prioritize this case and other environmental cases to safeguard Uganda’s last few remaining tropical rainforests.

The case was previously dismissed by the High Court, leading the complainants to seek justice through the Court of Appeal.

In a concerning development, as of April 2023, the NFA reported a historic destruction of the forest, with approximately 6,000 to 8,000 hectares destroyed in the disputed areas over the past three years.

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