• Fri. Aug 19th, 2022

UGANDA, Entebbe | Real Muloodi News | The Ruparelia Group of Companies has finally received approval from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to continue with the multi-billion Entebbe Speke Resort and Convention Centre at Kitubulu Bay, near Entebbe Town. 

The construction of the lavish five-star resort and convention centre began in 2019, with completion expected to occur this year. However, Rajiv Ruparelia, Managing Director of the Ruparelia Group, clashed with the environmental agency in December last year over allegations of degradation to Lake Victoria, and work of the multi-billion construction was halted.

Notwithstanding, on July 28, 2022 NEMA announced that both sides had agreed on strategies for the project’s long-term execution.

“This followed the conclusion to NEMA’s satisfaction of the project design review and adjustments by the developer under the guidance of NEMA, to address all issues that would compromise the integrity of Lake Victoria and the surrounding environment,” the statement reads in part.

NEMA said that they have approved the developer’s updated master plan after they committed to evaluate and modify the project’s design to protect the lake from any potential detrimental effects.

NEMA’s Conditions

The environmental authority, however, stated that the developer will carry out the project under specific guidelines. The developer is prohibited from building any long-term structures within 20 meters of the water’s edge to prevent the siltation of the shoreline.

“There shall be no dumping of soil or other waste whatsoever into the lake during the construction phase and implementation phase. All waste must be treated on-site in a cyclical manner. There will be no waste discharged into the lake even after treatment of effluent,” reads NEMA’s statement.

Residents must continue to use the resort’s seashore, and the developer is obligated to move the water treatment plant farther in accordance with the coordinates given by NEMA.

Additionally, the Ruparelia Group is required, with the technical assistance of the Directorate of Water Resources, to set up beach/shoreline protection gabions before moving forward with the construction to prevent soil and debris from being dumped into the lake by surface water runoff during the construction phase.

The first stage of development will not include any dredging of the lake. More extensive research will be done throughout the Marina establishment phase to inform any decisions made in that regard.

NEMA additionally stipulates that any land submerged by rising water levels must stay preserved as a lake’s territory and that it must not be reclaimed.

“Such land can be used as a beach area in case of water recession and no infrastructure should be established in such area since it is needed for water fluctuation movements,” the statement adds.

NEMA had earlier in 2020 granted the developer an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Certificate, but now claims that since the project will be inside a lake’s 200-meter buffer zone, he must first get a Lake Shore User Permit.

The Backstory

In December 2021, contractors were seen pouring murram into the lake to reclaim the original project area that had been lost to increasing water levels, prompting NEMA to stop work at the site.

Since then, NEMA has held many meetings with the developer, including a site visit, to guide how to carry out the project in a way that doesn’t jeopardise Lake Victoria’s biological stability. Since then, the developer has de-silted the area of the lake where murram was thrown.

However, speaking during a press conference at the Speke Resort and Convention Centre site on December 10th 2021, Rajiv Ruparelia, insisted that what was being done was site levelling with the intention of protecting the US$100 million project from any rising water levels, and this was in line with the lakeshore buffer.

“When you take a look at our title, we have not entered even an inch into the lake. In fact the lake ate into our acreage that we had at the time of purchasing this land but we won’t extend it,” Rajiv said, adding “murram was being ferried to the site to recover the original project area that was taken up by the rising water levels.”

He also noted that Ruparelia Group is one of the prominent groups acclaimed for environmental protection.

Following the timeline of events on this issue, according to Real Muloodi News, Rajiv further claimed that the necessary application process was done and approved by NEMA, hence the project has been operating within the legal confines of the environmental laws. He saaid the project was approved with conditions of not impacting on the lake, which is what they had been doing.

In contrast, it was later reported that Speke Hotel applied for a Lakeshore user permit from NEMA, as recommended by Wakiso District Local Government (through the environment officer), but such a permit was never issued.

A meeting took place at the NEMA Head Office between NEMA and Speke Hotel representatives on 15 December 2021, led by Rajiv, to discuss how to sustainably undertake the project without compromising the integrity of Lake Victoria and the surrounding environment.

During the meeting chaired by NEMA Executive Director, Dr Barirega Akankwasah, it was resolved that “all construction on site remains suspended until relevant permits have been obtained; except for the gatehouse which is far from the lake shoreline.”

NEMA also directed Speke Hotels to “submit weekly reports of compliance to the issued NEMA Stop Notice.’

Rajiv’s company was also told to explore design adjustments to take care of the impacts of the rising water levels of Lake Victoria so that the developer’s portion of the land taken up by the lake is kept as a lake or used for non-permanent structure uses like a beach.

It was also decided that the excavation of murram from burrow pits without approvals should stop immediately, and the relevant approvals should be sought in accordance with the law.

Project Completion

The lavish USh3.6 trillion hotel and entertainment complex will be called the Speke Resort Convention Centre Entebbe after it is complete.

The USD100 million (USh384 billion) project will include a conference centre, eateries, and a marina, among other features.

350 rooms, four restaurants, a marina for 50 boats, 10 presidential suites, a convention centre with a capacity for 3500 people, additional conference spaces with capacities of up to 1500 people, small conference and meeting spaces, three wedding grounds, and 1,500 spaces for parking are all included in the complex.

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