The Mehta Group owned Sugar Corporation of Uganda, already in the bad books of local, regional and international conservation groups for their connivance to grab over 7.000 hectares of prime tropical rainforest to grow sugar cane on the land, has come under renewed fire this week. Reports emerged that the company has ignored instructions from the National Environmental Management Authority to treat their affluent before further discharge, but apparently the company has for years been ignoring the order and duping the general public in the process. Sources close to eco-tourism businesses in and around the forest expressed their concern that one of the rivers, flowing through the forest, was being heavily polluted by indiscriminate discharges of substances connected with sugar production, and that bird- wild- and plant life was suffering as a result of the polluted water.
The company is also reputed to have the worst record in the country for productivity and has often been told to improve their methods which would optimize their yield but the owners have been less than forthcoming in making further investments towards that end. The government of Uganda in fact last year sold a stake in the company for failing to make profits and declaring losses for a prolonged period of time, something which however did not stop them to eye a quarter of Mabira Forests overall area to expand their sugar cane plantations at the expense of the environment. Offers for alternative land, made in good faith by the Buganda Kingdom, were also not taken up, as that land would attract a lease fee while the sugar barons were hoping to get their hands on the forest for free.
This latest revelation will only strengthen the opposition to the entire Mabira give away saga, in which notably the president had declared himself committed to make it happen but was repeatedly compelled to draw back in the face of opposition from the streets, NGOs, the World Bank which considers the forest sacrosanct as an agreed offset solution for the Bujagali hydroelectric plant construction, but also members of his own party who vocally opposed him in parliament and other fora.
Compiled by Jackie