The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has cleared the air on the ongoing construction works at Ruparelia Group’s Speke Resort Munyonyo where a state-of-the-art modern convention centre is being currently on going.
The country’s environmental watch says it issued approval for water shore developments at Speke Resort Resort and that no encroachment and or refilling of the lake has taken place as social media reports claim.
The statement from NEMA comes after social media was this week washed by videos circulated by extremists exaggerating that tractors and trucks on-site were raising part of the resort compound near the lake, sparking a debate among citizens. The naysayers behind the video were accusing the Ruparelia Group of encroaching on the water body and NEMA of laxity in oversight.
However, in a statement via its Twitter account, NEMA dismissed the videos being circulated saying it had approved the plans by the resort to undertake works at the resort to raise, by adding more soil, its compound that was affected by an unprecedented rise in Lake Victoria water levels, in 2020, to prevent any future flooding.
“The Authority picked information from social media regarding degradation of Lake Victoria around Munyonyo Speke Resort and we immediately dispatched an inspection team which assessed the developments and their compliance to environment standards,” NEMA said on Twitter.
”As you might aware, Uganda will host the Non-Aligned Movement & G-77 Conferences next year. Venue: Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, as such the compound is being raised to prevent flooding of the gardens,” it said, adding that; “The approval given required management to replant grass that was removed from the same area.”
However, NEMA promised to follow up on the site works to ensure compliance with approval, particularly maintenance of Lake Victoria’s integrity.
“Waterfront developments are approved the world over, to attract tourism. This is a chance for Uganda to tap into the blue economy’s potential,” NEMA further said, adding: “The law gives the Government permission to build projects (in the interest of public good) on public lands e.g. roads, railway lines, marinas etc in wetlands provided they follow conditions given by NEMA.”
Speaking on behalf of Ruparelia Group of Companies, Dr Sudhir Ruparelia the group chairman said they are not degrading and filling Lake Victoria but rather securing the garden which was earlier affected by the unprecedented rise of Lake Victoria to a record 44 feet.
“Being adjacent to Lake Victoria is one of the unique attractions of this facility. It is an asset that we guard jealously,” Dr Sudhir told the media, adding: “Ahead of the August-December rainy season, it has become necessary to upgrade and secure (against flooding) of our grounds that were affected by the 2020-2022 unprecedented rise in Lake Victoria levels.”
It should be remembered that various properties on the shores of Victoria across Uganda were affected by the rising water levels. The Lake is said to have extended to about 20 metres inside Munyonyo Resort flooding the grounds which initially were used to host a couple of activities including weddings, music concerts, goats’ races and many more.
As a result, Sudhir says the entire resort is now undergoing major refurbishments in preparation for the 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as well as the G77 Summits to be held in January 2024 in Kampala, Uganda.
To prepare for the two summits, Sudhir said that the Group, through its construction firm, Meera Investments, entered into a joint venture with the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), to construct a state-of-the-art Speke Resort Convention Centre, to not only host the NAM Summit but also boost the country’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) potential and competitiveness.
The centre upon completion will be the biggest convention centre in the region whose main auditorium has a capacity of between 3,800 – 4,400 people depending on the sitting arrangement.
The centre will also have a multipurpose hall, 12 high-end conference/breakaway meeting rooms and a floating restaurant that can host more than 900 guests.