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Energy ministry first causality as cabinet orders demolition of gov’t buildings in protected areas

Minister of Energy Ruth Nankabirwa notes that cabinet’s stand on protecting the environment can’t be changed regarding demolition of the multi-billion complex occupied by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda-PAU in Entebbe municipality. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development is crying foul as they are on the verge of losing one of their oldest properties in Entebbe following a resolution by the cabinet to evict all government structures from protected areas.

According to information obtained by URN, in its recent meeting, cabinet resolved to demolish all structures of Ministries, Departments and Agencies in wetlands, river and lake catchment areas and other protected sites.

The decision is one of the attempts by the government to walk the talk and send a direct message on its resolve to protect and restore ecosystems that have been largely depleted.

As a result, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development is on the verge of losing the multi-billion complex occupied by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda-PAU in Entebbe municipality that sits on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The Energy and Mineral Development Minister Ruth Nankabirwa, says that the affected building has been experiencing flooding due to ever-rising water levels in Lake Victoria.

Nankabirwa notes that to contain the problem of flooding, they had requested Shillings 8million to construct a barrier, which was turned down by the cabinet and instead recommended the demolition of the entire building.

She revealed that the cabinet argued that the government cannot finance a structure that was illegally constructed in the catchment area of Lake Victoria contrary to environmental laws.

According to the National Environment Act, a lake and any other water body have a 200-meter buffer zone that is designated for environmental protection.

However, a 2015 report by NEMA indicates that Lake Victoria buffer zones had been eaten up by human activity including the construction of permanent structures.

Despite the cabinet decision to demolish structures in protected areas, authorities in the Energy ministry are opposed to the move.

Robert Kasande, the former Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary says the ministry has not in any way encroached on the lake.

Honey Malinga, the acting Director, Directorate of Petroleum says the site where the building in question stands has been the home to the different government installations since colonial times with silent improvements over time.

He says that the site was once used as a prison facility by the colonial authorities and headquarters of the Uganda surveys. To him, demolishing the structure will cost the Ministry over Shillings 20 billion that has since been injected into the construction works.

“It’s difficult to tag a figure on the structure which is at risk of demolition but we are talking about over Shillings 20billion. That’s too much to be just lost in a blink of an eye,” Malinga said.

However, Nankabirwa notes that the cabinet’s stand on protecting the environment can’t be changed. She says that the building can only be saved if the Energy Ministry officials prove that it’s the lake that has extended to their boundaries.

A few weeks ago, the Ministry of Water and Environment declared the environmental restoration decade as one of the moves to protect mother nature and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Ministry informed developers and other people occupying protected areas illegally to voluntarily vacate before they are pushed out forcefully.

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URN

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