25 February 2019

Uganda: Nema Okays Kampala Port Construction

Kampala — The proposed New Kampala Port at Bukasa, Kira in Wakiso District has been approved by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) but it will result in dredging part of Lake Victoria.

This was revealed by Ms Leilah Akello, a senior environment assessment officer at Nema during an inspection of the project area last week.

"The total area and volume of sediments to be dredged is estimated to be one million cubic centimetre and the erosion amounts are estimated at 941,830 tonnes per year," Ms Akello said.

The project will take 465 hectares of land and will displace homes without compensation as the government insists they were built in a wetland and forest reserve. However, the affected residents have petitioned court to compel government to compensate them.

Mid this month, Mr Jochen Scherer, the projects director of GAUF Engineering Company, a German consultancy firm, told a meeting in Kampala that the actual works are set to begin in June.

Planners of the port envisage that it will connect Kampala to Dar es Salaam by water and cut transport costs between the two destinations.

Ms Akello said the project will be done in three phases. The first phase will involve construction of the port, administration jetty, free trade zone, shunting yard, a two-berth multipurpose terminal and a two berth Roro terminal.

The second phase will extend the multipurpose terminal by additional two berths to a total quay length of 540 metres by 2030.

The last phase will extend the quay length of the multipurpose terminal to 960 metres by 2040. All the said phases will need dredging Lake Victoria.

In 2013, government put the cost of the port at $180m (about Shs657b) and it is estimated that at least 200 land owners will be affected.

"The land where the port will be is 60 per cent a wetland. That means the construction will come with destruction of different species," Ms Akello said. However, she said the project will co-exist with the natural environment and that the environment mitigation measures have been put in place including leaving part of the wetland and other green spaces.

According to the consultant, by 2030 the cargo outflow via the port in terms of exports is expected to be 411,315 tonnes while the cargo inflow (imports) will stand at 296,461 tonnes. The port is expected to start handling both export and import cargo by the start of 2020.

The land where the port will be built is occupied by people and there is a cultural shrine at the edge of the project site.

Residents' reaction

Mr Edward Ssebagala, one of the residents in Bukasa, said they are waiting for government to compensate them before they evacuate the area. "We are not against the project but we cannot leave without compensation. We bought here and we have land titles," Mr Ssebagala said.

About 2,000 residents from Bukasa-Kirinya in 2017 sued Nema in the High Court accusing it of illegally evicting them from their land without compensation or an alternative settlement. Nema and the National Forestry Authority maintain that residents invaded gazetted government land and settled there illegally. Court is yet to settle the matter.

Ms Akello said if government is to compensate residents, it will be done using the laws governing gazetted forests and wetlands since the proposed site for the port falls within a wetland (60 per cent) and a forest reserve (40 per cent).

Ms Mary Nabalende, the caretaker of a cultural shrine, protested against a suggestion to relocate the shrine despite warning that the project will cut off access and cause noise pollution, among other effects.

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