Parliament joins Nema in clearing tycoon Sudhir’s Lake Victoria hotel project

A multibillion project that is expected to give an upgrade to the hospitality industry in Uganda is finally set to be constructed when Uganda’s top tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia puts the architectural designs into reality.

Considered Uganda’s richest man, Sudhir who made his money through real estate and hospitality had set aside $100m (about Shs384b) to construct the hotel but faced protests from environmentalists who challenged the closeness of the project to Lake Victoria.

The facility which will have a convention centre, restaurants and marina will be one of the exciting sceneries to those arriving in Uganda through Entebbe International Airport as its location at Kitubulu occupies the site that was known as Ssese Gateway Beach.

National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) however, on July 28 gave a lifeline to the tycoon and his Speke Hotel (1996) limited by granting permission to construct the new facility after getting certified with the master plan.

“This followed the conclusion to Nema’s satisfaction of the project design review and adjustments by the developer under the guidance of Nema, to address all issues that would compromise the integrity of Lake Victoria and the surrounding environment,” reads part of the statement.

Several conditions were agreed upon between the environmental regulator and the real estate mogul. These conditions include; no permanent structures within 20 meters of the waterline because this would pose a siltation risk; no soil dumping into the lake; and no waste discharge into the water.
These conditions must be followed during construction and during the implementation of the project that targets future international events like summits and conventions.

Known for taking decisions against the actions of the government agencies under its oversight role, Parliament of Uganda is set to back Nema on its conditions for the sustainability of the ecosystem when the hotel project is completed.

The Committee on Natural Resources has agreed with the position of Nema and a report is expected soon for the endorsement of the entire House.
Emmanuel Otala, the Committee Chairman read out the conditions that the legislators have put forward after meeting with officials from Nema and Wakiso District local government.

The legislators who said they cannot stand in the way of such a development that will boost the economy through providing employment to Ugandans now want the tycoon to put strong gabions to protect the lake shores; plant grass to ensure there is a good landscape; and have the buildings being within 200 meters radius of offshore region.

In the Nema document that guided the MPs, the construction of the hotel is supposed to protect the land that is always taken up by increasing water levels and this should not be reclaimed when the water levels drop.

Lake Victoria, shared between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is known for instances of increasing water levels. The Lake is the worldly known source of the River Nile though some studies trace the river from the Rwenzori Mountains.

Nema clashed with Sudhir in December last year when it made the move to halt the preparation works at the site on allegations that contractors were dumping murrum into the lake as a way of recovering the original area that had been submerged by the increase in water volumes.

Sudhir is the proprietor of the Speke Resort Hotel and the Commonwealth resort at Munyonyo also on the lake shores of Lake Victoria. These facilities that hosted the late Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Uganda for the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007 are constructed within reasonable space from the buffer zone.

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