Uganda: Environmental Law Context Report




Country Context Report



A series of extracts and resources compiled by Ghati Nyehita, postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, with supervision from Amy Sinclair, Managing Editor of the African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII).

19 August 2019


1      Sources of environmental law in Uganda. 2

A     Domestic constitution and legislation. 2

B      Domestic executive decision-making. 3

2      Environmental law topics in Uganda. 9

A     Energy, minerals and extractives. 9

i.      Oil and gas market 10

ii.         Minerals and extractives. 11

B      Coastal, marine and fisheries. 11

i.      Fisheries. 11

ii.     Challenges faced in the fisheries sector 12

C     Agriculture, plants and forestry. 12

i.      Agriculture. 12

ii.     Forestry. 13

D     Climate change, natural disasters and air quality. 13

i.      Climate Change. 13

E      Wildlife. 15

F      Protected areas. 15

G     African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples. 16

1       Sources of environmental law in Uganda

A       Domestic constitution and legislation

This is a non-exhaustive list of the most important legislation affecting environmental law issues in Uganda.

Legislation title and URL

Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 

National Environment Act, 1995  

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2010. 

The Water Act, 1997 

The Anti Corruption Act, 2009 

The Electricity Act, 1999 

The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 1985

Uganda Wildlife Act, 1996 

Land Acquisiton Act, 1965 

Land Act, 1998 

Local Governments Act, 1997 

Land in Buganda (Provisional Certificates) Act, 1922 

Historical Monuments Act, 1968 

National Forest and Tree Planting Act, 2003 

B       Domestic executive decision-making

1.   Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives[1]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives

o State Minister for Trade

o Minister of State for Cooperatives

o Permanent Secretary

o Under Secretary

o Commissioner Cooperatives Development

·    Directorates and Departments:

o Finance and Administration

o Industry & Technology

o Cooperatives

o Trade

o Internal Trade

o External Trade

o Sessional Committee

o MSME Directorate

2.   Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries[2]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries

o State Minister for Agriculture

o State Minister for Animal Industry

o Permanent Secretary

o Under Secretary

·    Directorates:

o Directorate of Animal Resources

o Directorate of Crop Resources

o Directorate of Fisheries Resources

o Directorate of Agricultural Extension Resources

3.   Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development[3]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development

o Minister of State Privatization and Investment

o Minister of State Planning

o Minister of State Micro Finance & Small Enterprises

o Minister of State General Duties

o Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury

o Deputy Secretary to the Treasury

o Accountant General

o Ag. Director/Economic Affairs

o Director/Budget

o Under Secretary/Accounting Officer

·    Directorates and Departments:

o Economic Affairs

o Budget

o Accountant General

o Internal Audit

o Cash and Debt Management

4.   Ministry of Works and Transport[4]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Works and Transport

o State Minister for Works

o State Minister for Transport

·    Affiliated institutions of the ministry:

o Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda

o Uganda National Roads Authority

o Uganda Road Fund

o Rift Valley Railways

o Kampala Capital City Authority

5.   Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development[5]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development

o The Minister of State, Lands

o The Minister of State, Housing

o The Minister of State, Urban development

·    Directorates:

o Land and Management

o Physical Planning and Urban Development

o Housing

6.   Ministry of Water and Environment[6]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Water and Environment

·    Directorates:

o Environmental Affairs

o Water Development

o Directorate of Water Resource Management

·    The following parastatal institutions and authorities are under the Ministry of Water and Environment:

o The National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC)

o The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)

7.   Ministry of Local Government[7]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Local Government

o Minister of State for Local Government

o PS Ministry of Local Government

·    Directorates:

o Local Government Administration

o Local Government Inspection

8.   Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development[8]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Energy and Mineral Development

o Minister of State Energy

o Minister of State Mineral Development

o Permanent Secretary

o Under Secretary

o Comm. Sector Planning & Policy Analysis

o Director Geological Survey & Mines

o Commissioner Electrical Power

o Commissioner Renewable Energy

o Commissioner Energy Efficiency And Conversation

o Commissioner Midstream Petroleum

o Commissioner Petroleum Exploration Development And Production

o Commissioner Petroleum Supply And Distribution

o Commissioner Geological Survey

o Commissioner Mines

o Commissioner Geothermal Resources

·    Directorates:

o Directorate of Energy Resource Development

o Finance and Administration Department

o Directorate of Geological Surveys and Mines

o Directorate of Petroleum

9.   Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation[9]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation

o PS Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation

·    Directorates

o Directorate of STI Regulation.

o Directorate of Research and Innovation.

o Directorate of Science Techno-preneurship

10. Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities[10]

·    Decision makers:

o Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities

·    Departments:

o Tourism Development

o Wildlife Conservation

o Museum and Monuments

o Finance and Administration

·    Affiliated institutions of the ministry:

o Uganda Wildlife Education Centre

o Uganda Tourist Board (UTB)

o Uganda Wildlife Research & Training Institute (UWRTI)

o Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (HTTI)

o Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)

2       Environmental law topics in Uganda

Uganda is a land locked country with an estimated total area of about 241 020 km sq. 15.1 per cent of its area is made up of open water, 11 per cent national parks and game reserves or protected areas (PAs) and about 5.9 per cent forest reserves.[11][12]  The country is often referred to as the “Pearl of Africa” for being one of the most bio-diverse countries in Africa.[13]

A       Energy, minerals and extractives

Uganda has one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the world. Traditional biomass fuels account for more than 90% of total energy consumption.[14] Uganda suffered from inadequate power supply for several decades due to civil wars and declining water levels in Lake Victoria.[15]  There was a power sector reform in 1999 that is described as being the most ambitious in Africa, to deal with the crisis.[16] These reforms saw the country to being the first African country to offer private concessions for power generation and distribution By 2016, the country had 850 Megawatts (MW) of installed capacity with 645 MW of hydropower and 101.5 MW thermal generating capacity.[17] Since Uganda relies predominantly on hydropower, its energy capacity is affected by erratic rainfall patterns and drought. However, load shedding has declined to almost zero due to increased energy capacity from oil plants to about 50MW.[18] Nevertheless, the country is under pressure to find additional energy resources due to increased electricity demand which is growing at an annual rate of 10-12%.[19] It is predicted that increased forest loss could lead to an energy crisis.[20]

Uganda’s reliance on biomass would lead to an energy crisis if it remains unaddressed.[21] The main challenge of the energy sector lies in the inability of around 27% of the Ugandan population to pay for renewable energy solutions, especially after a poor harvest. [22] The government is currently focusing to encourage the use of energy saving stoves and sustainable charcoal production.

i.          Oil and gas market

The World Bank described Uganda as the hottest inland exploration frontier to watch in the oil and gas sector. This description is attributed to the discovery of 6.5 billion barrels of oil, of which 1.4 billion are economically recoverable.[23] The Petroleum Exploration and Production Department revealed that Uganda had made 21 oil and gas discoveries as at 2019.[24] Uganda’s gas resources comprise 170 billion cubic feet (bcf) of associated gas (found within the oil) and 500 bcf of non-associated or independent natural gas.[25] To date, commercial oil production has not taken place in Uganda, although it is anticipated that joint venture partners Total E&P, CNOOC, and Tullow Oil (who are leading the development of oilfields already discovered) will commence production by 2020–21.

An Industrial Baseline Survey conducted in 2013 noted that no Ugandan companies were equipped for hazardous waste management. Firms engaged in this area typically handle the collection, transportation, and storage of hazardous waste, and the collection of oil-based mud cuttings from drilling activities. However, the capabilities of local firms were limited to only local transportation and waste disposal at the time (SBC 2013).

ii.         Minerals and extractives

 Exploited minerals include limestone, iron ore, sand, pozollana and gold. Limestone, a raw material for production of cement, was the highest extracted mineral in terms of quantities although it decreased from 1,090,240 to 979,660 MT between 2014 and 2015.[26]

B       Coastal, marine and fisheries

i.          Fisheries

Fish contribute about 3 per cent to national GDP and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP. Lake Kyoga used to rank second in contribution to the total fish production in Uganda but has now become depleted due to over fishing, use of illegal fishing gear and invasion of invasive species. Despite the general declining trend in fish exports, there was a registered increase in both quantities (by 85%) and value (by 26%) in 2015 compared to 2014. The quantities and value, however, declined in 2016 by 31% and 25% respectively.[27] The Great Lakes account for the majority of capture fisheries in Uganda, and Lake Victoria alone contributes about 50% to the annual capture fisheries production.

Overfishing, capture of immature fish and pollution in Lake Victoria have resulted in decreased fish stocks. In 2009, the fisheries industry was the second largest foreign exchange earner for Uganda after coffee, contributing 3% of GDP and was important to the livelihoods of approximately 1.5million people.[28]

The government has adopted the following measures to ensure continued fish production:

·    zoning and gazettement of breeding grounds;

·    establishing standards for fish farming and breeding of aquatic biodiversity;

·    controlling fisheries and other aquatic resources;

·    fish waste management and

·    capacity building for the better management and monitoring of fisheries.[29]

ii.         Challenges faced in the fisheries sector

The ecological resilience of Lake Victoria is threatened by high population, unsustainable fishing practices, increased watershed degradation, pollution, conversion of sensitive shoreline wetlands to agricultural lands, reduced water inflows and the effects of climate change.[30] Together, these factors result in declining fish stocks and diversity, the destruction of critical habitats (impacting breeding and nursery areas of fish) and threaten the regional economy and livelihoods.[31]

Eutrophication caused by wastewater discharges as well as the emergence of alien invasive species that have colonized significant parts of the water bodies are emergent challenges for fisheries management.[32] For example, Lake Kyoga has been colonised by the congress weed, posing a challenge both for fisher folk and the fisheries management authority. [33]

C       Agriculture, plants and forestry

i.          Agriculture

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ugandan economy, contributing significantly to food production, export earnings, employment creation and livelihoods.[34] The major challenges in the agriculture sector relate to climate change, pests and diseases; land degradation;[35] and, governance and regulatory services and soil fertility problems.[36]  Soil fertility issues are mainly attributed to nutrient mining, loss of soil cover by in situ destruction or removal of crop residues, accelerated loss of soil organic matter, poor soil physical properties resulting in low rainfall infiltration and restricted rooting caused by soil compaction, and lack of proper soil management.[37]

ii.         Forestry

Uganda’s forests contribute to approximately 8.7% of GDP.[38] 70% of Uganda’s forests are privately owned and 30% are in the protected area network including national parks and forests reserves.[39] Deforestation is estimated at 2.4% per year.[40]The natural forest cover was reported to be declining during the period of 1990-2017. The forest coverage by big forests remained relatively stable between 2010-2015 while small forests either reduced in size or were completely cleared during the same period. Uganda reported an increase in planted forest cover that caused the full recovery of forest areas that had been encroached in 1990. The general decline in forest cover is mainly caused by clearance of land for agriculture, increased demand for charcoal and wood, infrastructure development and excessive harvesting of non-timber forest products. [41]

D       Climate change, natural disasters and air quality

i.          Climate Change

Uganda is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its dependence on rain-fed agriculture.[42] Consequently, climate change poses a risk to the country’s GDP growth and export earnings.[43] The current experiences of climate change include: increasing temperatures by the decade since the1960s;[44] changes in rainfall patterns and intensity;[45] intense and more frequent floods[46] and declining water levels in Lake Victoria[47].

Agriculture was the leading source of GHG emissions in 2012, with land use change and forestry (LUCF) as the second most significant source.[48] Agriculture: According to the SNC, activities that drive agriculture sector emissions are livestock production, inefficient animal waste management systems under pasture range and paddock, and the cultivation of organic soils. Paddy rice production and use of nitrogen fertilizers are also included in the BAU. Activities that would reduce agriculture emissions are intensive livestock management systems using improved breed quality and improved feed, fodder and pasture quality that is more digestible; adoption of manure management practices including biogas production and utilization; adoption of minimum tillage practices on cultivated land (including organic soils); and increased use of fertilizer accompanied by precision planting techniques to enhance efficiency.[49]

The LUCF sector is expected to remain a net emitter through the 2030s, although the SNC notes that with interventions, the sector could become a major sink as early as 2025. Its 2010 analysis of land use trends showed forested land to be decreasing while crop land and bush increasing. Forest degradation was highest outside of protected areas and in areas where agriculture expanded. Fires were also a major source of degradation of land cover, with fires commonly seen in central and northern Uganda.[50]

Climate Change Mitigation Targets and Plans

Uganda proposes in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to undertake a suite of policies and measures that may result in national emissions that are 22% below projected 2030 BAU emissions.6 Uganda notes that the BAU projection is presented for illustration purposes only. The country pledges to complement mitigation actions it will undertake to develop an enabling infrastructure and enabling environment for electric power development, forestry, and wetland management. The additional actions are contingent upon receiving international finance, technology, and capacity building support for the energy demand and agriculture.

See USAID Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Uganda (2016).[51]

E        Wildlife

Uganda reported an increase of human-wildlife conflicts between 2011 and 2016.[52] Human wildlife conflict are mainly caused by elephants, hippos, buffaloes, crocodiles, leopards, baboons and monkeys. These conflicts are a result of conversion of wildlife habitats for agriculture, urban settlement, industrialization and infrastructure development. Other threats to wildlife are illegal wildlife trade, the spread of invasive species.[53] Proposed solutions to these threats include the invention of more innovations to further reduce human wildlife conflict; revenue sharing for communities and implementation of biodiversity offset.[54]

F        Protected areas

Protected areas in Uganda include national parks, wildlife reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, community wildlife areas, wetlands and forest reserves.[55] The main threats to these protected areas are poaching, encroachment, fires, expansion of fishing village enclaves, charcoal production and firewood harvesting, oil exploration and climate change.[56]

G       African customary law and rights of indigenous peoples

Uganda does not recognize any group of people as indigenous and hence there is no express protection for indigenous people. Nevertheless art 32 of the 1995 Constitution protects indigenous groups as ethnic minorities through provision for affirmative action. The equal Opportunities Commission Act protects indigenous groups in the same way as the constitution.[57]

Batwa People, the Benet people and pastoral communities

Indigenous people lack of security in land tenure and marginalization in terms of political representation. They have experienced the indigence and historical injustices induced by the state caused by the creation of conservation areas in Uganda. An example is the violent eviction of the Karamoja community from land they had traditionally used for grazing to pave way for wildlife conservation. 40.2 percent of their land is now under protection of Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Wildlife Authority Act allows local communities to participate in wildlife management, but there is no evidence of any collaboration between the government and local communities in wildlife management as yet.

The Uganda National Land Policy of 2013 recognizes that pastoral communities have been disadvantaged through loss of “land rights to conservation projects, mainly national parks and other government projects including government ranches. This has led to depletion of their resources or landlessness. Privatisation of communal grazing lands and other pastoral resources has forced some pastoral communities and ethnic minorities to invade other people’s land or to encroach on protected areas in their neighbourhood.”

The policy proposes among others that pastoral lands should be held, owned and controlled by designated pastoral communities as common property under customary tenure. It also calls for action to protect pastoral lands from indiscriminate appropriation by individuals or corporate institutions under the guise of investments. Another suggested intervention is to promote the establishment of Communal Land Associations and the use of communal land management schemes among pastoral communities.

Even when the Uganda Constitution provides for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation, prior to taking of possession or acquisition of the property, appropriation of communal pastoral land has not always been compliant. Therefore, it is provided that future land take over must consider “land swapping, resettlement or compensation for pastoral communities displaced by government from their ancestral lands.

From Indigenous Peoples in Uganda: A review of the Human Rights Situation of the Batwa People, the Benet people and pastoral communities; Alternative report to the Initial report of the Republic of Uganda to be presented at the 55 th session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1 st – 19th June 2016.[58]

[12] Ibid.                                        

[13] Ibid.

[14]  See Final Energy Report Uganda, 2019 available at 3.

[15] ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme) (1999). Rural electrification strategy study. Report 221/99.

[16] USAID Power Africa in Uganda (2016) available at

[19] Ibid. 

[20] Cooper, R. (2018). Current and projected impacts of renewable natural resources degradation on economic development in Uganda. K4D Emerging Issues Report; USAID. (2015). Uganda Environmental Threats and Opportunities Assessment. Available at p. 33.

[21] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17, p. 111.

[22] See Final Energy Report Uganda, 2019 available at

[23] Marion Angom and Fiona Magona State of Oil and Gas in Uganda (2017) available at

[24] Ritwika Sen Enhancing local content in Uganda’s oil and gas industry WIDER Working Paper 2018/110 available at

[25] MEMD (2017). ‘The Oil and Gas Sector in Uganda: Frequently Asked Questions’. Kampala: Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development, available at resources/FrequentlyAskedQuestin.pdf.

[26] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[27] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17 p vii-viii.

[28] Cooper, R. (2018). Current and projected impacts of renewable natural resources degradation on economic development in Uganda. K4D Emerging Issues Report.

[28] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17

[29] EMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[30] Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation Secretariat. (2015). Stock Assessment Report: Status of the Fish Stocks. Kakamega, Kenya.

[31] Ibid.

[32] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17 p 78.

[33] Ibid.

[34] IMF. (2017). 2017 Article IV Consultation and Eighth Review under the Policy Support Instrument- Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Uganda 23 (IMF Country Report), available at

[35] 41% of Uganda’s total area is experiencing degradation, and 12% is in a severe state of degradation, see CIAT; BFS/USAID. (2017). Climate-Smart Agriculture in Uganda (CSA Country Profiles for Africa Series. International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); Bureau for Food Security, United States Agency for International Development (BFS/ USAID)). Available at

[36] Cooper, R. (2018). Current and projected impacts of renewable natural resources degradation on economic development in Uganda. K4D Emerging Issues Report.

[37] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[38] Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE). (2016).State of Uganda’s Forestry 2015. Available at p.53.

[39] (Banana, Abwoli Y., Patrick Byakagaba, Aaron JM Russell, Daniel Waiswa, and Allan Bomuhangi. A review of Uganda’s national policies relevant to climate change adaptation and mitigation: Insights from Mount Elgon. Vol. 157. CIFOR, 2014.

[40] Ibid p. 3.

[41] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[42] Cooper, R. (2018). Current and projected impacts of renewable natural resources degradation on economic development in Uganda. K4D Emerging Issues Report.

[43] World Bank (2017). Uganda Economic Update February 2017. Available at

[44] Cooper, R. (2018). Current and projected impacts of renewable natural resources degradation on economic development in Uganda. K4D Emerging Issues Report.

[45] Government of Uganda. (2017). the Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy 2017/18- 2030/31. Available at file://adf/css/staff/home/CooperRV/undp-ndc-sp-uganda-ggds-greengrowth-dev-strategy-20171204.pdf p.16.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Babel, M., S., & Turyatunga, E. (2015). Evaluation of climate change impacts and adaptation measures for maize cultivation in the western Uganda agro-ecological zone. Theoretical Applied Climatology, 119: 239-254 p. 240.

[48] World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (WRI CAIT) 2.0, 2015.

[49] Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment, 2014. Uganda Second National Communication (SNC) to the UNFCCC.

[52] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[54] NEMA 2016 National State of the Environment Report 2016/17.

[55] Protected Areas and Sustainable Development in Uganda Presentation by Aggrey Rwetsiba Uganda Wildlife Authority Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities UGANDA available at

[56] Ibid.