UGANDA – Thika-based consumer goods manufacturer Bidco has been cleared of charges of environmental breach in Uganda, offering reprieve to the firm that has been fighting claims that it is involved in malpractices.
Uganda’s High Court dropped the case against the manufacturer for alleged deforestation for a vegetable oil farmland.
The case had been filed by three environmental groups which claimed that Bidco had influenced Uganda National Forestry Authority to de-gazette forest reserves on Bugala Island for the firm to grow palm oil.
“The defendants have never asked the government of Uganda to de-gazette any forest reserve as claimed in the plaint, no forest reserve has been de-gazetted as a result,” the court says in its verdict.
“The land provided on lease to Bidco by the government for the project was not a de-gazetted forest, therefore, the issue of de-gazzetation should not have arisen.”
The case drop bodes well for the firm’s operations in Uganda. Last year, Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture also dismissed claims that Bidco had grabbed land.
Bidco had come under heavy criticism over the land grab allegations, environmental degradation and displacement of thousands of people in Kalangala District of Uganda.
The firm uses the harvest as raw materials for the production of edible oils that are sold in the East African market.
The High Court said that there was no evidence showing that Bidco’s activities breached the people’s right to a clean environment.
“The plaintiff should have further produced evidence to establish that growing of palm trees would be harmful to clean and healthy environment rather than being accredit to a clean and healthy environment by growth of palm trees.”
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has also been probing the firm over the alleged malpractices on request by civil rights groups, activists and NGOs.