• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Showdown Between NEMA and Rajiv Ruparelia Over Construction of Entebbe Speke Resort on Lake Victoria

UGANDA, Entebbe | Real Muloodi News | Real muloodi Rajiv Ruparelia’s lavish five-star Entebbe Speke Resort and Convention Centre that is currently under construction has come under controversy this week.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has accused the Ruparelia Group of environmental degradation of the shores of Lake Victoria, a claim that the property developer vehemently denies.

According to NEMA, large quantities of murram were dumped at the fringes of Lake Victoria at the project site in Kitubulu, Katabi sub-county, Wakiso District, degrading the shore of the water resource.

NEMA says this is a breach of one of the conditions in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate, which compels the developer to prevent degradation of the Lakeshore in accordance with the National Environment (Wetlands, Riverbanks and Lake Shores Management) Regulations.

However, speaking during a press conference at the Speke Resort and Convention Centre site on December 10th, Rajiv Ruparelia, Managing Director of the Ruparelia Group, insists 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.” Rajiv also noted that Ruparelia Group is one of the prominent groups acclaimed for environmental protection.

Rajiv Ruparelia Addressing Journalists About The Speke Resort Entebbe Project Status In Kitubulu, Entebbe On December 10th.
Rajiv Ruparelia Addressing Journalists About The Speke Resort Entebbe Project Status In Kitubulu, Entebbe On December 10th. Image Source: Daily Express

NEMA says while it is true that since 2019 the water levels in Lake Victoria, the Nile and other water bodies have been rising owing to factors associated with climate change including increased rainfall; other aspects such as encroachment on wetlands, lakeshores and river banks, and poor land-use practices have amplified the impacts of wetland degradation.

Rajiv further claims that the necessary applications process was done and approved by NEMA, hence the project has been operating within the legal confines of the environmental laws. He says the project was approved with conditions of not impacting on the lake, which is what they have been doing.

In contrast, it has been 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.

Timeline of Events

November 2, 2021

During routine environmental surveillance undertaken by NEMA, it is alleged that two supervisors were arrested from the site for dumping murram in Lake Victoria. It is alleged a total of five people were arrested during the operation, four trucks were impounded and the Environment Police Protection Unit was deployed on-site to stop any further degradation.

December 8, 2021

NEMA conducted an operation following a public outcry on social media about the developer dumping more murram into Lake Victoria.

December 10, 2021

NEMA issued a Stop Notice to Speke Hotel, for breach of conditions of approval that required the developer to first obtain a permit for developments at the lakeshore before commencing.

The Ruparelia Group held a press conference that same day at the Speke Resort and Convention Centre site, where managing director Rajiv Ruparelia denied the allegations of degradation of the Lakeshore.

December 15, 2021

A meeting took place at the NEMA Head Office between NEMA and Speke Hotel representatives 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 excavation of murram from burrow pits without approvals should stop immediately, and the relevant approvals should be sought in accordance with the law.

“As an instant mitigation measure, the murram that has been dumped at the fringes of the lakeshore line MUST be immediately drawn backwards and leveled to avoid any siltation of the lake,” said NEMA.

Lake Victoria

Researchers say encroachment on Lake Victoria’s shores threatens to destroy the freshwater lake resource, which is Africa’s second-largest and major tourist destination.

Lake Victoria covers nearly 68,800 Km square and is shared by Kenya (6 per cent by area), Uganda (43 per cent) and Tanzania (51 per cent).

According to specialists, Lake Victoria’s basin has the fastest-growing population in East Africa, comprising more than 30 million people. Much of this population derives its livelihood directly or indirectly from the lake.

“Permission to develop recreation centres including hotels within the 200-meter buffer zone of the lake is granted on the basis of facilitating sustainable tourism, however, developers ought to utilize the resource sustainably,” says NEMA.

Speke Resort Convention Centre, Entebbe

Upon completion of the development, the luxurious USh3.6 trillion hotel and leisure park will be known as the Speke Resort Convention Centre Entebbe. The facility will have 350 rooms, four restaurants, a marina for 50 boats, 10 presidential suites, a Convention Centre with a carrying capacity of 3500 persons, additional conference facilities of up to 1500 persons, small conference and meeting facilities, three wedding grounds and parking space for 1,500 cars.

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