ESIA profile

Updated to: 30 September 2013

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Country contact

National Environment Management Authority
NEMA House, Plot 17/19/21 Jinja Road, P.O. Box 22255
Kampala, Uganda.
Tel: 256-41-251064/5/8
Fax 256-41-257521,

History of ESIA

EIA practice was legislated in Uganda for the first time in the 1995 National Environment Statute, now the National Environment Act (NEA Cap 153). The law requires compulsory EIA for activities that can significantly affect the use of natural resources. The Act passed in parliament and was assented to by the President in May 1995. Although EIAs were required from 1995 onwards, the Act was not fully implemented until 1998 when the regulations for EIA were passed. These regulations detail the EIA process and the roles of various stakeholders. In 2003, The National Environmental Regulation (Conduct and Certification of Environmental Practitioners) was promulgated to provide a code of conduct for EIA practice and a system of EIA experts’ certification.

Mujuni, H. Environment Impact Assessment Legislation in Uganda; a paper presented at the IAIA Conference Seoul, Korea June 2007.

Legal framework

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Framework/Enabling law

The National Environmental Act, Cap 153 (1995).

National detailed regulation for ESIA

Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (1998).

  • The National Environment (conduct and certification of environmental practitioners) regulations (2003) set minimum standards and criteria for qualification of EIA practitioners.
  • The National Environment (wetlands, riverbanks and lakeshores management) Regulations (2000) require permits to be obtained and EIA to be undertaken before undertaking any activities in wetlands, lakeshores and riverbanks.
  • The Environmental Audit Regulations (2006) specify the auditing procedure.

The EIA regulations and the environmental law are currently being revised (in 2013).


Environmental Impact Assessment Public Hearing Guidelines (1999) issued by NEMA.

Sector specific procedures or regulations on EIA

References to EIA are made in sectoral policies such as those related to forest, mining, fisheries, energy and petroleum requiring EIA application to certain projects in that sector.  NEMA has EIA guidelines in preparation for mining, forestry, fisheries, energy, agriculture, urban planning and infratructure, that were expected to be ready in 2010. Separate guidelines on EIA for water and roads are in preparation by the responsible sectoral agencies.

Waiswa Ayazika, NEMA, 2009

Exemptions from ESIA application

Exemptions are allowed under certain conditions, e.g. in case of emergency response to a disaster, NEMA can allow a direct response without first conducting an EIA for a project. This is possible under the National Environmental Act. The EIA guidelines under preparation will state which projects do not require EIA. 

Waiza Ayazika, NEMA, 2009

Scope of ESIA application

All activities: public, private, national and foreign, that are listed under the third schedule of National Environment Act, 1995.

NEA 1995

Institutional setting

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Central ESIA authority

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is the central EIA authority in Uganda. NEMA is responsible for the review of all EIAs and the issuance of EIA guidelines.

Other key (governmental) parties involved in ESIA, and their roles

Any ministry, government department, state corporation, local government or public stakeholder consulted during the EIA procedure for its opinion on the project brief, the ToR and the EIA report. Certified and registered consultants have to be engaged to undertake an EIA.

The EIA regulations further provide for a Technical Committee on Environmental Impact Assessment which shall advise the Board and the Executive Director on technical issues relating to the carrying out of environmental impact assessments.

Waiswa Ayazika, NEMA, 2009

(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates

In Uganda, decision-making regarding EIA partly also takes place at the local level. In general, decision-making falls under the responsibility of the executive director of NEMA at national level. Nevertheless, before taking the decisions, local authorities are consulted for projects that fall within or across their boundaries. Moreover, screening decisions are taken by local authorities.

NCEA, 2011. Report on EIA Mapping in Uganda.

Payment system

The proponent is required to pay fees to process the project briefs and for EIA to NEMA. These fees depend on the total cost of the project and are prescribed under schedule three of the EIA regulations 1998. For example, 250,000UGX is required for projects with value of less than 50,000,000 UGX. Where the total value of the project is more than 5,000,000,000 the amount payable is 0.1% of the total value (1USD=2000UGX)

EIA regulations 1998 Schedule three

ESIA procedure

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Overview ESIA procedure

The EIA process in Uganda involves screening, scoping, assessment, review, decision-making process on the EIA approval and compliance monitoring (in Uganda referred to as environmental auditing). No light EIAs are required in Uganda; either the full EIA is conducted or the project is approved directly.

Milestone documents that result from the EIA process are the following: Policy Brief (screening), Terms of Reference (scoping), Certificate of EIA approval, environmental audit reports.


Screening process

A formal screening decision is taken by NEMA.

Only projects listed in the third schedule of the National Environment Cap 153 are subject to EIA. The list contains no minimum thresholds or location criteria. NEMA may also screen projects that are not listed in the third schedule but are likely to be out of character with the surroundings, and conclude that these are subject to EIA. The process begins with the proponent submitting a Project Brief to the Executive Director of NEMA for review. If the brief meets the prescribed requirements set in the EIA regulation, it is sent to the lead agency and any other relevant stakeholders for comments. The Executive Director, after review of the Project Brief and the comments from other stakeholders may issue a certificate of approval for the activity if:

1) no significant impacts are expected or;
2) sufficient mitigation measures are proposed.

In case the review of the Project Brief reveals that the proposed project is likely to have significant negative impacts for which no adequate mitigation measures are prescribed, then a detailed EIA is requested.

Sensitive areas

There are some provisions for activities within environmentally sensitive areas. Annex 3 of the EIA guidelines of 1997 lists the creation of national parks, game reserves, buffer zones and the establishment of wilderness areas as activities subject to a full EIA. Sensitive areas are also covered under those activities which are out of character with the surroundings. Additionally, the National Environment (wetlands, riverbanks and lakeshores management) Regulations, 2000, require permits and EIAs to be obtained before undertaking any activities in wetlands, lakeshores and riverbanks.

Contents of the starting document

A project brief is required, which should describe:

a) the nature of the project;
b) the projected area of land, air and water that may be affected;
c) activities to be undertaken during and after the development of the project;
d) the design of the project;
e) the materials that the project shall use, including both construction materials and inputs;
f) the possible product and by-products, including waste generation of the project;
g) the number of people that the project will employ, the economic and social benefits to the local community and the nation in general;
h) the environmental effect of the materials, methods, products and by-products of the project and how they will be mitigated (or eliminated); and
i) any other matter which may be required by the NEMA.


Timeline Screening

NEMA gives the screening decision within 21 days.

Waiswa Ayazika, NEMA, 2009


Scoping process

Scoping is a formal step initiated by the proponent.

The process involves the development of Terms of Reference for the EIA by the developer in consultation with NEMA and the lead agency. The ToR is reviewed by NEMA and the relevant lead agency. It has specific requirement stated under article 14 of the EIA regulation 1998. After review and acceptance of the ToR, the proponent is required to submit to the Executive Director of NEMA, for approval, the names of the consultants to conduct the EIA study. Methods of scoping are not given but it is provided that the proponent is required to ensure that the views of the public among other stakeholders are incorporated and considered.

EIA regulations, 1998

Contents of the scoping document

A Terms of Reference should be submitted, which in effect contains a scoping document. The required contents are listed under article 14 of the EIA regulation 1998. In summary these contents include:

  • project description; 
  • site description; 
  • alternatives and reason for rejecting alternatives; 
  • material inputs & their potential effects; 
  • an economic analysis of the project; 
  • technology; 
  • product and by products; 
  • effects; 
  • mitigation; 
  • knowledge gaps; 
  • alternatives; 
  • methods of data collection; and
  • names and qualitfications of the people who will do the study.


Waiswa Ayazika, NEMA 2009.

Timeline scoping

Not specified


Assessment process

Impact assessment is based on the ToR made during the scoping process. The proponent is responsible for the EIA report, which is supposed to be signed by all individuals who conducted the assessment. Other than ensuring that the public is involved, the EIA regulations do not prescribe other methods that can be used for assessment. Nevertheless, in preparing the EIA report, the regulation under its first schedule prescribes that the proponent should pay attention to;

(i) ecological issues (biological, sustainable use and ecosystem maintenance);
(ii) social consideration;
(iii) landscape; and
(iv) land use.
Economic analysis of the project is also required.


Contents of the EIA report

In addition to an executive summary, the EIA report should contain a description of:

a) the project;
b) the proposed site and reasons for rejecting alternative sites;
c) baseline condition of potentially affected environment;
d) material inputs and their potential impacts;
e) an economic analysis of the project; 
f) technology and processes to be used, and alternative technologies and processes, and the reasons for not selecting them;
g) products and by-products of the project;
h) the environmental impact of the project (direct, indirect, cumulative, short-term and long-term effects and possible alternatives);
i) mitigation measures; 
j) gaps in knowledge and uncertainties encountered in compiling the required information;
k) an indication of whether the environment of any other state is likely to be affected and the available mitigation measures; and
l) methods of data-collection.

The Executive Director is empowered to require other necessary information.

EIA Regulations, 1998

Accreditation of consultants

There is an accreditation system, and minimum standards and criteria for qualification of EIA practitioners are laid down in the National Environment Regulations (Conduct and Certification of Environmental Practitioners), 2003. On the website of NEMA a list of registered and certified environmental practitioners in Uganda (2011) is provided.


Review process

The Executive Director of NEMA is responsible. The review method is not prescribed. In terms of process, the proponent submits the EIA report to the Executive Director, who then sends it to the lead agency for comments. If the Executive Director deems the report complete upon receiving the comments of the lead agency, he first invites the public to give their written comments and then directly invites the persons likely to be affected by the project also to give their comments. After review of all the comments, the Executive Director decides (if there are contentious issues) whether to have a public hearing. Additionally, the Board of Directors of NEMA may, upon the advice of the Executive Director, enlist the Technical Committee (a standing committee established by law), to advise in reviewing certain EIA reports.  

EIA regulations, 1998

Review expertise

Relevant ministries and governmental agencies (lead agencies) and the public are involved in the review process. The Executive Director may also form a Technical Committee that comprises experts from different disciplines to advise on the decision of certain EIA reports.

EIA Regulations, 1998

Timeline Review

NEMA has 30 days to provide feedback on the EIA report.

EIA regulation 1998 article 18 (2), 19 (1), 19 (4), 20 (4), and 22 (2)

Decision making

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Integration of ESIA into decision-making

The approval of the EIA report automatically implies that an certificate of approval of the project will be awarded. Such a certificate of approval is required before any licensing authority issues a license for an activity. The EIA approval is thus separate from licenses/ permits for commencement of projects which are under the responsibility of different authorities. In some situations, NEMA also issues separate licenses, e.g. on wetlands, and on hazardous waste. 

The competent authority in decision-making is the Executive Director of NEMA.

Decision justification

Decisions are justified. For example, it is required that if the proposed project is rejected, the reasons for rejection should be communicated to the proponent in writing.

The decision is not required to be published to the public but any member of the public may request access to the record of the decision.

EIA regulation 1998, article 27 (1)

Timeline decision-making

Within 180 days from the submission of the EIA, NEMA has to make a decision.

EIA regulations 1998 article 27 (2)

Follow up

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Compliance monitoring

Monitoring is a requirement both for the state of the environment during the operation of the activity and for compliance with the conditions of approval.

The proponent is required to undertake an initial environmental audit (by a specified date, which is between 12 to 36 months after commencement of the project) carried out by persons whose names and qualifications have been approved by the Executive Director of NEMA. Subsequently, the Executive Director may require other audits at any other time. After each audit, an environmental audit report shall be prepared by the developer and submitted to the Executive Director.

The Environmental Audit Regulations (2006) specify the auditing requirements. They are accessable on the website of NEMA.

There are possibilities for external monitoring. Inspectors, "gazetted" by NEMA, may conduct inspections at any time. In addition inspection can be undertaken by lead agencies for areas under their jurisdiction. The public may, after showing reasonable cause, request that an environmental audit be carried out.

EIA Regulation, 1998, Article 31

Non-compliance penalties

The Executive Director may cancel the certificate of approval when: there is no compliance with the conditions of the certificate, there is a substantial modification of the activity during implementation, where these is a substantive undesirable effect not in the approval. Where the proponent fails to implement the mitigation measures, an inspector may issue a notice of improvement, to order a cessation of the activity unless improvement is realised. The Environmental Act of 1995 states that any person who fails to submit a project brief, or an EIA report or who gives a false statement in the EIA process is liable to an offence and if prosecuted may be imprisoned for 18 months and fined between 180,000 and 18,000,000 UGX or both (1USD=2000UGX).

Environmnental Statutes of 1995

Stakeholder engagement

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Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages

There are provisions for public participation. The public can participate during the stages of EIA study and EIA report review.

The EIA regulations require the proponent to take all necessary measures to seek the view of affected people during the assessment stage.

During the review phase of the EIS, the Executive Director can request that a public hearing should be held by the lead agency. The lead agency shall present the results and recommendations of the public hearing in the form of a report to the Executive Director. Any interested or affected person can request to partake in the hearing.

Both oral and written comments can be given. Comments on the EIA report are submitted in writing while during a public hearing formal presentations (written) and informal presentation (verbal) may be given to the NEMA presiding officer.

The Executive Director is required to take into account the written comments on the EIA report and all comments made in a public hearing. When a project is approved, it is not required to specifically address the public comments in the decision statement. When a project is rejected, public comments that have contributed to the rejection may be mentioned.

The public has to pay to obtain a summary/report of the public hearing and to obtain a copy of the EIA report, although copies should also be available at a local library at no cost. On occassion, digital copies are provided upon request.

EIA Regulations, 1998

Timeline for public comments

The general public has 28 days to write and submit comments on the EIA report. The affected people that the minister of environment directly invites to write and submit comments have an additional 21 days. If a public hearing is held, a further period of about 45 days is required.

EIA regulation 1998 article 18 (2), 19 (1), 19 (4), and 20 (4)

Access to information

All documents (including the Project Brief and all advices and comments) submitted to the Executive Director are public, and should be available to the public on request.

The invitation to the general public to submit their comments is published in a newspaper with national or local circulation. the invitation for the persons who are most likely to be affected is made in a newspaper with local circulation in the area where the activity will be located, in other mass media and through the distribution of the information through lower governments, in the languages understood by the majority of the affected people. A public hearing is advertised through radio and print media in the locality of the project and through a national newspaper and radio. If a public hearing is held, multiple sessions may be organized at multiple locations. At least one session should be held in the community located nearest to the site of the proposed project.

EIA regulation part 1998 IV


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Possibilities for appeal

  • Appeals can be made to the high court
  • Appeals can be made against any decision of the Executive Director
  • Any aggrieved person or institution has the right to make an appeal

EIA regulation 1998

ESIA practice

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Annual no. of ESIAs

460 EIAs had be done in Uganda in 2010.

Central ESIA database

NEMA keeps a list of all EIAs submitted to the Executive Director, the names of proponents and their contacts. Where approval was granted, the conditions of approval are also entered into the database. The database also contains the projects which were rejected and the reasons for their rejection.

Professional bodies

  • Uganda Association for Impact Assessment: professionals involved in EIA need to be a memebr of this association. Aministration and certification of EIA consultants is provided an by an independent committee on registration of environmental practitioners. This committee has its secreatriat within NEMA.
  • Eastern Africa Association of Impact Assessment (EAAIA) was formed to enable the Eastern Africa region to establish a well-managed database that acts a as: a source of EA information, a mechanism for exchange and sharing of knowledge, information and experience on EA policies and practice; support maximization on the use of available resources in the region. Uganda is a member.
  • East African Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (EANECE): Regional network of governmental agencies which have in their mandate environmental management, compliance and enforcement responsibilities in the East African nations of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Waiswa Ayazika, NEMA, 2009

Relevant links