By Our Reporter
The National Environment Tribunal has stopped the construction of a sugar factory on the banks of River Sio in Busia County.
Keneth Okuku who challenged Nema’s decision to issue an Environmental Impact Assessment (EAI) License for a construction of a sugar factory complex with a processing capacity of 900,000 tons per annum.
“The purpose of this letter is to direct that all activities relating to the appeal in question must stop until the appeal is heard and determined by the Tribunal” a letter signed for the Tribunal chair states.
It is alleged that the factory is set to be built in Busibwabo location, Mitaywa sub-County without following due procedure.
National Environment Tribunal said Section 129 (4) of EMCA states that, upon any appeal to the tribunal under this section, the status quo of any matter or activity, which is subject of the appeal shall be maintained until the appeal is determined by the tribunal.
Okuku on his behalf and Busia County residents filed an appeal case against Nema, Africa Polysack limited, Busia Sugar Industries, and Ministry of Water.
The Attorney General, County government of Busia, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural resources are also respondents.
Lake Victoria North Water Service Board and the Water Services Regulatory Board are lined up as interested parties.
The appeal is in respect to failure of NEMA to respond to the application for revocation of EAI Licence Number 0020469 dated May 15, 2015 on the construction of a sugar factory in Ebusibwabo location contrary to the Environmental Management and coordination Act.
Okuku in his appeal says that the construction of the firm has kicked off and poses heath risk to locals. “Nema issued an EAI Licence to Busia Sugar Industries without due regard to waste disposal and pollution control measures,” the appeal reads in part.
The appellant further said there were violations of due process in the award of the licence No. 0020469 with disregard to the Water Act, 2002. The EIA study has been challenged on grounds that it was not commended by any relevant government agencies.
“The sugar factory and the Busia Water Treatment Plant cannot co-exist within close proximity of each other, it is only fair and justifiable that the factory relocates,” said Okuku in the appeal record.
What concerns the residents most is that the factory’s effluent discharge plan was not given to them for approval, furthermore, it was rejected by Lake Victoria Noth Water Services Board.
They say neither the water quality and pollution control plan was presented to NEMA at the time Africa Polysack Limited sought EAI report approval and subsequent award of Licence.
In the circumstances, they hold the sugar factory will cause irreversible pollution and the ecological deterioration of the fragile River Sio ecosystem.
Through Muma and Kanjama advocates, NEMA tribunal has been asked to revoke the EAI licence issued by NEMA for the ongoing construction of the sugar factory in Ebusibwabo Location, Matayos sub-county within Busia County.
He wants Tribunal orders to restrain the parties involved, their agents, employees and their representatives from continuing with operations.
The orders to stop the sugar factory, the appellant want to include the restoration of the environment of the damage caused by the ongoing construction.
More, the tribunal asked to find that the EIA was done in a fraudulent manner, without involvement of stakeholders, including people living downstream who depends on water from the river.
If the Tribunal does not intervene, Okuku claims that people of Busia, its environs and the peasant communities who reside along the river Sio, from Matayos, through Funyula, to Budalang’i constituencies as it flows into Lake Victoria may be endangered.
Stating that they depends on both water and ecosystem for their lives and livelihood and may be endangered from pollution due to the construction of a sugar factory upstream on the banks of the river in Ebusiwabo location.