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Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) v. Attorney General
Type of document:
Date of text:
July 13, 2005
Data source:
Court name:
High Court of Uganda
Seat of court:
Reference number:
Miscellaneous Cause No. 0100 of 2004
ECOLEX subject(s):
The Butamira Forest Reserve was established in 1929. In 1939 the Forest Reserve was leased to Kakira Sugar Works for a period of 32 years for the purpose of producing of firewood for the sugar company. However, they were denied the right to change the use of the use of the land from forest to plantation. In 1997 Kakira applied for permission to turn the Reserve into a plantation to the Forestry Department. Their request was granted. With this new permit but without undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment, the company embarked on a scheme to clear the existing forest estate and replace it with sugar cane plantations. The Local Community which depended on the forest for forest products and as a source of water complained and formed a pressure group in protest. They applied to this court seeking a declaration that, inter alia, the granting of a permit of Kakira by the first respondent contravened the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and that the granting of the forest permit to Kakira amounted to the defacto degazetting the statutory obligations of the respondent when it permitted Kakira to occupy a forest reserve and change the land use without carrying out a full Environmental Impact assessment Study. It was also in violation of the applicants’ rights to a clean and healthy environment and protection of the country’s natural resources. They wanted an order to restore the environment and preserve the ecological integrity of the Forest Reserve. The court emphasized that the application raised four issues for determination: Whether the applicants had standing in this matter; whether there was breach of the doctrine of public trust; whether the second respondent failed in its duties; and the remedies available to the parties. It was of the view that the applicants were clothed with legal standing to take the instant action under the Constitution on behalf of the people of Butamira and other citizens of Uganda. They were not busy bodies. Besides that, there was evidence that the permit was granted amidst protests from local communities which raised up a pressure group of over 1500 members who depended on the reserve for their livelihood through agro-forestry, and source of water, fuel and other forms of sustenance. There was therefore a breach of public doctrine. Politically and socially, Butamira Forest reserve belonged to the local community in Butamira. The people of Butamira also had a moral, cultural, economic and spiritual attachment to Butamira Forest Reserve as a source of sports, worship, herbal medicine, economy etc. It was therefore not proper to deprive them without consulting them and conducting a proper study. Lastly in alienating the reserve the second Respond also failed in its constitutional duty to conserve the environment and natural resources equitably and for the benefit of both the present and future generations. In conclusion, the application was upheld with the orders prayed for.