The parliamentary committee on Natural resources has started dissecting the National Environment Bill 2017, which is expected to provide solutions to the emerging environmental issues that cannot be addressed by the current environmental law.
John Baptist Nambesye, a committee member said that they are scrutinizing the bill, and he was optimistic that once the bill is finalized and passed by Parliament it will empower National Environment Management Authority to execute their duties in an effective manner.
“As legislators it is imperative to come up with laws which take care of all the emerging environmental issues in the country. The current law is too weak to address some of the new emerging issues especially in the oil and gas sector,” he explained.
The legislator, who is also the Member of Parliament for Manjiya County in Bududa District, said that currently Uganda is experiencing strong impacts of climate change but under the current law there’s no way government can respond to mitigate climate change since it is a crosscutting social and economic challenge to the country.
The primary objective of the Bill is to repeal and replace the National Environment Act to make it conform with the existing Government policies; the bill also intends to provide solutions to the emerging issues such as to provide for emerging environmental issues including climate change, the management of hazardous chemicals and biodiversity offsets; to provide for strategic environmental assessments; to address environmental concerns arising out of petroleum activities.
Under the new Bill, Government intends to establish an environmental tribunal which will support NEMA to prosecute organizations and individuals who commit environmental offences.
Why Government is coming up with new Law?
According to NEMA, the current Environmental Law which came into force on the 19th May, 1995 have become outdated, especially in the light of numerous environmental challenges that have emerged and emerging international best practices
The discovery of petroleum in commercial quantities in the Albertine Graben, with the attendant environmental challenges; the escalation of climate change concerns such as drought, floods, storms, heat waves and landslides that have had serious effects on agricultural production, food security, incomes, health and livelihoods, for the country to be safe against the Impacts of such environmental challenges there’s need for the legislators to develop a law that can address such issues in the society.
Uganda is also experiencing technology advancement and this comes with the challenges of managing e-waste, and unsound use of chemicals, among others need to be addressed in this regard.
In the current form, officials say, the existing law impedes protection of the environment. There is, accordingly, need for radical changes in the law to address the emerging environmental challenges.
“The existing defects, if addressed and incorporated in the new environment law, will harmonize the existing law with Uganda’s commitments at regional and international level. A revised environmental law will also empower the National Environment Management Authority and lead agencies to effectively execute their mandates for the protection of the environment,” reads part of the Bill