NEMA Boss Grilled Over Sand Mining, Kavera Ban

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In short
Dr Tom Okurut, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA observes that massive investments in real estate, power dams at Karuma and Isimba as well as ongoing and pending road works, among others, have led to roaring trade in sand and increased interest in sand mining than before.

Uganda may soon run out of sand to complete the huge infrastructural developments in the country, according to Dr Tom Okurut, the executive director of the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA.

Dr Okurut observes that massive investments in real estate, power dams at Karuma and Isimba as well as ongoing and pending road works, among others, have led to roaring trade in sand and increased interest in sand mining than before. Okurut said that some of the construction companies require about 5000 metric tonnes of quality sand monthly.

He adds that given the high demand, the country may have enough sand in terms of quality and content in the near future. He was appearing before the commission of Inquiry into Land Matters, where he was tasked to explain what his Authority was doing to regulate sand mining activities. 

There have been concerns that unregulated sand mining could negatively affect the country's lakes and rivers. Dr Okurut refuted reports that sand mining is taking place in the country's lakes and hastens to add that NEMA has so far issued permits to four companies to carry out large scale sand mining under strict regulation.

He said sand mining should take place on the wetlands and beaches where deposits have taken place for a long time.
 
//Cue In " Sand is not defined as a mineral….
Cue Out…. conditions that are there"//
 
Okurut says under the regulated mining, companies issued with permits are tasked to ensure that they restore the places mined of sand to almost their original state. He said the outcry in areas like Lwera along the Kampala-Masaka highway was prompted by new technology aimed at mining the sand needed by the Industry.

Parliament's Natural resources committee in October last year ordered for halt of sand mining activities in Lwera. MPS feared that the mining by Chinese companies was not regulated as provided for in the Rivers banks and Lakes regulations.
 
// "We have four companies….
Cue Out…. according to the law"//
 
The Commission's Lead Counsel, Ebert Byenkya tasked Dr Okurut to explain reports that some of Uganda's sand was being exported. Dr Okurut said there were no records at Uganda Revenue Authority to show that sand is being exported.

In a related development, National Environment Management Authority was questioned over the policy reversals that have been taken place over the decision to ban the use of polythene bags. While responding to the questions, Okurut says the policy reversal have not been fronted by his Authority.

He says the reversals have been majorly fronted by the Finance Ministry for economic reasons at the expense of the country's health and agricultural concerns.