The Executive Director
National Environmental Management Authority
NEMA House, Plot 17/19/21 Jinja Road
P. O. Box 22255
RE: REQUEST FOR NEMA TO CONDUCT AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PRIOR TO THE DISPLACEMENT OF THE OIL REFINERY AFFECTED PEOPLE OF KABAALE BUSERUKA
We write in regard to the ongoing refinery project in Kabaale, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district which, according to the government Resettlement Action Plan Report, will displace 7,118 people from over 2,000 households. The displacement is intended to help the government secure 29.34 sq km of land for the construction of an oil refinery in Uganda. We at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) have been monitoring the Resettlement Action Plan process which commenced in May 2012; and was followed by the production of the RAP report in October 2012.
The RAP implementation started in June 2013 and the government commenced the actual compensation of the refinery project affected people in December 2013. Under the RAP and the 1998 Land Act Cap 227, once a project affected person has been compensated (this compensation includes a disturbance allowance of 30%) he or she is required to vacate the property within a period of less than 6 months. Proper compensation, after taking into regard all socio-economic and environmental impacts, is therefore a prerequisite for government acquisition of land.
Still, despite the realities of the environmental challenges facing all oil producing countries in Africa and beyond, there is no evidence that NEMA (the lead agency) has asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) (the project implementer) to conduct an EIA in order to assess the possible environmental impacts of the refinery project, including the effect on the social fabric of the community and the entire ecosystem. Indeed, without an EIA, NEMA or any other entity cannot adequately mitigate the possible impacts of such a project.
It should be noted that the requirement to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for oil projects is a creature of statute. Under the 1995 Constitution, the National Environment Act, Cap 153, the Land Act Cap 227, the 1998 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of 1998 and other related laws, NEMA is under obligation to ensure that every investor conducts an EIA for a proposed project before being given a license to commence with the project.
This letter is therefore to request you to ask the responsible government agencies and companies in charge of the refinery project to conduct an EIA and hold public hearings in the affected villages before displacement of the refinery affected people. Under the above mentioned EIA regulations of 1998, any project of international importance or which may have possible trans-boundary effects must, in addition to an EIA, be accompanied by a mandatory public hearing. We request you to observe these legal requirements to avoid possible extermination of the refinery affected people. AFIEGO is ready to support the process by mobilizing the affected communities to participate.
About AFIEGO: AFIEGO is a public policy research and advocacy registered non-governmental organization whose mission is to promote good energy governance for improved livelihoods and national development for the common good in Uganda and the great lakes at large. We do this through three (3) access rights (access to information, public participation and access to justice). We live and work with communities in the oil region, including the oil refinery affected people of Kabaale.
As we submit this letter, the implementation of the RAP continues to impact negatively on the community, causing uncertainty about their future. For instance, since 2nd June 2012 (the official cutoff date), people no longer have the right to use their land freely. Even before fully compensating them, government stopped them from building houses, planting perennial crops like coffee, investing in schools, medical centers and other long term projects. In some homes, children no longer go to school because the entire community expects to be evicted any time. Besides, they can't use their land to dig and raise school fees. It is total suffering and indignity.
While there have been efforts by government to compensate and resettle the community members, the processes have been highly flawed, with some community members who rejected the low compensation rates having to resort to legal action. Thus in the absence of an EIA to properly assess the magnitude of the effects of this project, the future of the refinery affected people is not certain.
It is therefore clear that NEMA failure to use its legal mandate to ensure that an EIA is conducted before displacement of the refinery affected people is a violation of, inter alia, the right to a dignified life and a clean and healthy environment; as well as the duty to protect the country's natural resources.
In the premises therefore, we demand that an EIA be immediately conducted before the displacement of the affected people. Failure to execute your legal mandate will leave AFIEGO with no other recourse but to file a case against you- so as to move you to carry out your duties.
Thank you in advance for honouring our request. We look forward to your timely response.
Chief Executive Officer
Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development
Minister for Energy and Mineral Development
Minister for Internal Affairs
National NGO Board
Minister for Water and Environment,
Production and Natural Resources Committee of the Hoima District Council
Environmental Officer, Hoima District,