State Minister of Environment, Hon. Beatrice Anywar, visits NEMA, urges staff to remain committed to the environment

The Minster of State for Environment, Hon. Beatrice Anywar visited NEMA on February 19, 2020 to brief management and staff about the expectations from the sector.

The Minister fondly known as "Mama Mabira" was taken on a tour of the NEMA building and the facilities there in, including the Library, Laboratory, Geographic Information Systems and ESIA centre.

While at the GIS centre, Senior GIS officer Mr. Julius Muyizzi explained that NEMA is able to determine the exact boundaries of natural systems such as wetlands, forests, rivers, lakes etc. This technology is used to determine and location of transmission lines, sewer lines, drainage channels and the technology was also used to develop the Uganda Wetlands Atlas.

The minister tasked the team to utilize the technology to develop a document that will be used to demarcate all natural critical eco-systems and possibly adopt newer technology that can provide real time data on activities taking place in, around or near critical natural ecosystems.

At the NEMA library, Hon. Anywar noted that it is critical to share information with the public and leaders in local governments such as district environment officers, in order to have synchronized environment management decisions from top to bottom and vice-versa. Senior Librarian Ms. Eva Mutongole, explained that the library has a tool, called the e-board that enables staff to access all relevant information.

The director in charge of Policy, Planning and Information Mr. Mike Nsereko, under whose directorate the Library is, explained that plans are underway to upgrade the system to ensure that the e-board is available online, not only for NEMA staff but everyone who is seeking environmental information.

NEMA Executive Director, Dr. Tom Okurut, in a presentation to the minister, explained the role of NEMA in environmental management emphasizing that in spite of the institution being a regulator, many people still expect NEMA to undertake the duties of local governments in managing local environmental issues such as noise pollution.

Dr. Okurut also highlighted the challenges NEMA faces including misperception of roles, and limited staffing and funding. He also explored the achievements including successfully ensuring that large projects such as Isimba, Karuma, Entebbe Express Way and many others are undertaken without significant damage to the environment. He further explained that contrary to press reports the commercial rice growing project in Lwera was approved by NEMA and it is not dangerous to the environment.

In her address to top management, Hon. Anywar assured the team that there is good will from the head of state and that the Environment is on top of the agenda. Hon. Anywar committed to advocating for a total ban on single use plastics, protection of critical ecosystems such as wetlands, forests, rivers and lakes.

She further emphasized that the law would catch up with individuals who are causing environmental degradation; and promised to go on a field tour off all areas where NEMA has had interventions in order to ascertain the challenges and success stories.