Gen Saleh, who is also the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and presidential advisor on defence, has for quite a while been involved in a battle with moderates over his unequivocal help to Mango Tree Group, a Chinese company dredging sand in Lake Victoria.
Speaking at a Research Associate Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode) function in Kampala on Friday, Gen Saleh told environmentalists that mining will continue because the country is constructing industrial parks and Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) – all of which need the sand.
“They (the National Environment Management Authority) have stopped the ship from operating but we hope that they will reconsider and give us the sand as long as it is regulated. That one, I will not back down until I am made to back down,” Gen Saleh said.
Saleh defends dredging lake
Mango Tree Group Limited has been dredging part of Lake Victoria allegedly to desist the lake to enable their ship dock.
The Works ministry and Gen Saleh recently launched the ship docked at Bugiri-Kawuku in Entebbe Municipality, Wakiso District.
Gen Saleh insisted that in spite of opposition to the project, sand mining will continue because the proposed SGR project requires 12 million tonnes of lake sand, a glass factory in northern Uganda will consume 200,000 tonnes every year, and an industrial park in Nakaseke District he is setting up, will take up an additional 8,000 tonnes every month.
In a veiled swipe at the Wakiso District chairman, Mr Matia Lwanga Bwanika, who scooped an award at the same function for opposing sand mining, Gen Saleh said: “Local governments are very hostile to investors and that is why young people will not get jobs. Local governments have very serious problems. They are completely disconnected from the investors who are there. They have refused to develop local economic development projects, and there is no local government that has investment profile.”
Ms Florence Kyalimpa, a research associate at Acode, asked Gen Saleh to reconsider his stance on sand mining as it risks endangering the lake, a home to different aquatic lives and a source of jobs for millions of people dealing in fish. Fish breed at the shores of the lake where sand is being mined in the name of upcoming infrastructure projects in the country.
“I do hope that with time, you will reconsider your statements, especially after doing the cost-benefit analysis on whether we should go sand mining or preserve the beauty of the lake and ecosystem services provided by the lake,” Ms Kyalimpa said.
She also reminded Gen Saleh that Uganda produces the best fish in Africa. Gen Saleh did not respond.
No Nema authorisation
A week earlier, Nema executive director Tom Okurut maintained that the Authority has never permitted any companies to dredge sand in the Lake, adding that the fisheries department had advised against the same.
Weighing in on the matter, Gen David Muhoozi, the UPDF Chief of Defence Forces, who also participated in the dialogue organised by Acode, said: “The best thing is to see how to do it sustainably to ensure that our resources remain protected… but you cannot say stop this or protect this. We need to make tradeoffs that allows both to coexist in a sustainable way.”
The meeting ended without any binding resolution on the matter.