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The government of Uganda is quietly exploring plans to buy back Bujagali dam, a major hydroelectricity project, from a consortium of private investors and developers in a move that would constitute a major reversal in public policy.

“The high cost of electricity in Uganda has reached unsustainable levels that are severely eroding local industries’ competitiveness and domestic consumers’ disposable income,” says a confidential brief seen by this newspaper that seeks to justify the buy-back.

By 2019 government of Uganda “will only control 8.75 per cent of the country’s electricity generation capacity, thus it will not be able to effectively impact the overall electricity tariffs that are currently spiralling out of control,” adds the brief.

Harrison Mutikanga, the head of the government-owned Uganda Electricity Generation Company, confirmed that discussions were ongoing to explore the viability of the proposal. Sparks fly over Umeme’s failure to supply power to businesses

Located on the River Nile near Jinja, the dam is owned by Bujagali Energy Ltd (BEL), a special-purpose vehicle owned in turn by Industrial Promotion Services, which is part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and SG Bujagali Holdings, an affiliate of Sithe Global Power, LLC, part of Blackstone, the US-based private-equity fund.

NAPE in collaboration with other African Civil Society in Africa and global allies in a campaign codenamed YES TO LIFE and NO TO MINING yesterday presented an open letter challenging the organizers and attendees of a conference on Extractive Industries in Africa which is happening at Chatham House in central London.

MONDAY 16TH MARCH

Nnimo Bussey presenting CSO's petition at the Chatham Houce Conference on Extractive Industries in AfricaAs speakers and participants gather at Chatham House in central London for a two-day conference entitled ‘Extractive Industries in Africa’, individuals, organisations and coalitions from across Africa and beyond have signed an open letter challenging the conference organisers and attendees. The letter asks that delegates consider an alternative set of questions and discussion points which, rather than paying ‘mere lip service’ to sustainability and international protocols, addresses the climate, social and ecological crises that the extractives industries are implicated in and consider a genuine transition away from fossil fuels.
The letter will be delivered by hand by Nnimmo Bassey, a lifelong activist challenging big oil in the Niger Delta, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria, and former Head of Friends of the Earth International.

PARLIAMENT. Lawmakers yesterday banged tables, called the water and environment minister names, before kicking him and his officials out of a meeting called to discuss a ban on the use of polythene bags.
MPs on the Natural Resources committee led by former Finance minister Syda Bbumba, who announced the ban in 2009, said polythene bags (commonly known as kaveera ) pose a danger to the environment and “violates the rights of citizens to a clean and healthy environment.”

Attempts by Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, the minister, to blame the politically charged nature of any debate about polyethenes and the “lack of coordination” for the delay in banning kaveera, only further infuriated the committee.
Ssembabule Woman MP Anifa Kawooya noted that for 15 years she has been talking about the ban without success.

Ms Kawooya moved that the minister and team be thrown out despite his desperate pleas about the constitutional right to a fair hearing.
“We resolved that the kaveera should rest in eternal peace but the minister and his friends are just playing games. We are tired of talking; we want action and the minister should not appear before this committee until this matter is resolved,” she said.

Palm oil producers backed by the UN taken to court by evicted farmers who say they have received little compensation

Before the bulldozers came, Magdalena Nakamya harvested coffee, cassava, avocado and jackfruit on her three-hectare (seven-acre) plot on Kalangala, an island in Lake Victoria.

But on a July morning in 2011, Nakamya, 64, awoke to find yellow machines churning up her land and razing the crops she had grown in a bid to make way for palm oil plantations.

“No one came to talk to me before they destroyed my crops,” says Nakamya. “I heard that some people were given money, but I didn’t receive anything.”

Oil Palm Uganda Limited (Opul) was launched in 2002, following an agreement signed between the government and Bidco Uganda, a food producer, with the aim of increasing palm oil production in the country.

Mabira forestThe environment activists also opposed the palm oil project that was aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on imported vegetable oil saying the project would destroy forests with no regard for environmental regulations

Kampala. Lands minister Daudi Migereko has told conservationists that protecting forest cover alone does not bring about development in the country unless such natural resources are put to proper use.

Environmentalists and conservationists remain locked in a debate with the government over proposals aimed at cutting down natural forests for plantations or sugarcane growing with arguments that this will disrupt rainfall patterns. They argue that forests are also homes to precious wildlife and key eco-tourism attractions.
But the minister said yesterday the debate should be opened to discuss the advantages of preserving the forest reserves vis-à-vis putting up more developmental projects where they exist.

Speaking at the closure of a three-day awareness workshop on the voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of lands, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security in Kampala, Mr Migereko argued that while forests are God-given, they should be turned into income generating resources.

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