ENVIRONMENT: The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has announced its plans to auction trucks/lorries aiding in backfilling of wetlands in Uganda.
In a Public Notice issued by the authority on 20th February 2023 to Lorry owners and drivers, NEMA said it has noted the increasing number of cases in which lorry/truck drivers are contracted to aid in backfilling of wetlands which is a criminal offence under the National Environment Act, No.5 of 2019 and attendant regulations
“The general public, particularly truck drivers, owners and contractors are hereby informed that once we have ascertained that a truck has been used to dump marram or debris in a wetland, the truck will be auctioned and the driver, owner & contractor charged for the crime.” the public notice reads.
NEMA has therefore, advised Truck drivers, owners and contractors to always first verify whether the areas where they deliver debris or marram to, are approved by NEMA or delegated authority.
According to a 2020 report by the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda will be left with only 1.6% of wetlands cover by 2040 if the destruction trend is not reversed by the deliberate and dedicated restoration programs countrywide.
Statistics show that countrywide wetland coverage has dropped from 37,346.3 Sq.Km in 1994 (15.5%) to 21,526.3 Sq.Km (8.9%) of the total national surface area. In 1994, the wetland coverage was 15.5% of Uganda’s land cover, but by 2016, wetland coverage had reduced to only 8.9% and it is projected to be only 8.4% by 2019.
The report shows that Eastern Uganda is the most degraded at 46% while Northern Uganda registered the lowest degraded area of 21%. Degradation levels in the central and western regions stand at 29% and 28% respectively.
The National Environment Management Authority recently warned the general public that effective 1st, April 2023 it shall in addition to existing criminal prosecution measures; commence an Administrative Penalty Scheme for environment breaches in line with Section 172 of the National Environment Act, No.5 of 2019.
The express penalty scheme is intended to deter non-compliance to environment laws and to prevent environmental degradation through payment of monetary penalties (fines).
Under the Express Penalty Scheme, the offender will be required to pay a fine within the prescribed time frame and in a specific bank account. The notice will specify the date and nature of the alleged contravention, a summary of the facts that NEMA or authorized officer alleges, and the amount payable.
The fines payable for specific environmental breaches are a computation of currency points where one currency point is equivalent to twenty thousand shillings (UGX 20,000) only. Some key offences are listed below;
Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and Audits
• Failure to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Environment Risk Assessment for the projects that that require ESIA or ERA will attract a fine not exceeding UGX 1 billion for individuals or fifteen years in prison or both; and UGX 6 billion for corporate bodies
• Failure to conduct an annual environment audit will attract a penalty of up to UGX 1 billion or imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or both
• Failure to display the complete certificate of approval of Environmental and social impact Assessment is up to UGX 1 billion for an individual and up to UGX 6 billion for a corporate entity
Wetlands River Banks and Lake Shores
• Destroying, damaging or disturbing a wetland in a manner that has or is likely to have an adverse effect on any plant or animal attracts a fine of up to UGX 3,000,000
• Failing/neglecting or refusing to protect a lakeshore in accordance with the regulations attracts a fine of up to UGX 3,000,000
• Leaving rubbish outside residential premises will attract a maximum fine of up to UGX 6,000,000
• Littering from commercial buildings attracts a maximum fine of UGX up to 6,000,000
• Depositing rubbish/waste on a roadside, or ditch attracts a maximum fine of up to UGX 6,000,000
• Depositing rubbish in a river, stream, lake, pond, canal or channel attracts a maximum fine of up to UGX 6,000,000
• Littering from cars or driving a car without a dustbin attracts a maximum fine of up to UGX 6,000,000
Management of plastics
• Importing, exporting, manufacturing, using or reusing plastic carrier bags or plastic products made of polymers of ethane (polythene) and propylene that are below 30 microns will attract a fine of up to UGX 100,000,000
• Dealing in activities that result in aggravated pollution or polluting the environment contrary to conditions contained in a pollution control licence or permit, discharge or emission of pollutants into the environment contrary to approved standards attracts a maximum fine of up to UGX 6 billion
• Emitting noise in excess of the permissible noise levels will attract a maximum of up to UGX 10,000,000 upon conviction
• Failing to immediately reduce noise to a permissible noise level when required to do so, attracts a maximum fine of up to UGX 10,000,000.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is a semi-autonomous institution, established in May 1995, as the principal agency in Uganda, charged with the responsibility of coordinating, monitoring, regulating and supervising environmental management in the country.
NEMA spearheads the development of environmental policies, laws, regulations, standards and guidelines; and guides Government on sound environment management in Uganda. In doing this, NEMA contributes to social-economic development and wise use of natural resources, focusing on providing support to Government’s main goal of ensuring sustainable development contributing to the National Vision, the National Development Plan (NDP), regional and global commitments including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).