Hoima Sugar has blasted the decision by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), denying the factory the right to plant sugarcane on all the 22 Square Miles of land in Bugoma, Kikube district in western Uganda that was leased to them by the Bunyoro Kingdom.
“The guidance issued by NEMA in the certificate of use we got the recently unfairly deprives our company of its rightful occupancy,” said Sheila Nduhukire, the lead communications strategist for the Hoima sugar.
“It is obvious the environment body fell for the misleading campaign and arguments by self-seeking environment activists who posed to be fighting to protect the forest. The 22 Square Miles that we got from Bunyoro Kingdom is not on a forest. We are a green company and there is simply no way we would be wanting to cut down a forest,” she added.
Environmentalists are up in arms, saying the move will lead to the destruction of the forest cover, a claim Nduhukire dismissed as baseless.
Hoima Sugar Ltd intends to plant sugarcane on 9.24 square miles, establish an urban Centre on 1.206 Square miles, establish an eco-tourism center on 1.97 square miles and restore forest on 3.13 square miles.
Close to five years ago, the Kingdom of Bunyoro gave Hoima Sugar 41,144 hectares for development and to set up a sugar plant and sugarcane plantation. But due to the wrangles that arose out of this agreement, the project has derailed since 2016.
In 2019, National Forestry Authority (NFA) took Hoima Sugar to court challenging the occupancy. However, court ruled that the company was legally entitled to use the 22 square miles that border Bugoma Forest Reserve.
Hoima Sugar further said an environment and social impact assessment certificate received from NEMA has only permitted them to grow sugarcane on nine square miles of grassland.
“The development sends relief down the spine of environmental activists and they can choose to chest thump over the win but our interest as investors needs to be protected. We cannot keep people failing the development of the country and failing our investments simply because they go around telling lies about our project,” said Nduhukire.
“It would be within our right to challenge what NEMA has done and we are indeed consulting our lawyers because we are truly disappointed that NEMA chose to deny us the right of possession of more than half of our legitimately acquired land (13 square miles),” she emphasised.