For most people, Steel does not sound like a crucial part of the COVID-19 pandemic response effort—but it is.
With an aggressive surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, one of the biggest issues that emerged is a serious shortage of oxygen.
Roofings Limited, B.M Steel, Steel & Tube, Pramukh Steel, Oxygas Limited among others, are renowned manufacturers of Steel products; these stepped up to support public and private hospitals through supplying oxygen at no cost.
This support has not only saved the lives of patients but has also supported the already outstretched healthcare system faced with increased demand for oxygen to save lives.
When the pandemic hit the country, the Steel companies initially intended to use its production and workforce to manufacture iron bars, iron sheets and other Steel related products, but it soon discovered it had a larger role to play.
With the emerging need for oxygen, steel companies like Roofings Limited have expanded their oxygen units to save lives.
The need for oxygen has been dire, and other non-steel manufacturers have reconfigured their production lines to provide oxygen as well.
The UMA Chairman (C) presenting to officials from the Ministry of Water and Giz natuRes during the breakfast meeting
The UMA chairman urged the Government through the Ministry of Water and Environment to support manufacturers in their effort to realise sustainable manufacturing practices through instituting Rebates and Tax Relief mechanisms to industries that invest heavily in utility-related infrastructure in the absence of investment by Government agencies.
The Chairman also called for the removal of the proposed Excise Duty on Imported plastic raw materials which is not realistic since some of the recyclable plastic is contaminated with heavy metal pollutants such as lead and therefore cannot be used in the foods & drinks sector which is the biggest user of plastic products.
She made these remarks during a breakfast meeting held at the sidelines of the Water Week in March 2021. The meeting, supported by the Giz natuRes program sought to create a sustainable platform between Uganda Manufacturers Association and the Ministry of Water and Environment deliberate on issues of mutual interest related to the green economy and sustainable water and environmental management.
Sustainable manufacturing practices related to water and the environment have been a topical issue globally; enshrined in the United Nations SDG number six (6) means that industrialists ought to uphold sustainable environment practices to safeguard not only consumers but contribute to the natural resources’ stewardship.
The UMA Chairman, Barbara Mulwana, in her presentation, highlighted some of the sustainable development initiatives which are being implemented by some members of the association. These include;
- Jesa Farm Dairy depends on the water from River Mayanja which is polluted. Jesa had to invest USD 0.5m to import a wastewater treatment plant to treat the water supplied to the plant and also clean its waste-water which is heavily contaminated with chemicals used in cleaning up its equipment and machinery. This ensures wastewater returned to River Mayanja is of a cleaner quality than what was obtained from the water body.
- Nice House of Plastics in partnership with Coca-Cola Beverages Africa is initiating a mechanism of buying plastic flakes recycled from plastic waste from Plastics Recycling Industries (PRI), a subsidiary of Coca Cola to make fabric fibre. PRI receives the plastic waste from recyclers and collectors from across the country.
- Coca Cola is also partnering with KCCA and other partners within the plastics waste value chain to get the plastic waste from the environment, irrespective of which kind of manufacturer generated the plastic waste
- Hima Cement took up the task of working on its drainage systems so that its access roads could not be affected by runoff water generated within its boundaries. Hima Cement also engaged a private firm (Geocycle Ltd) to ensure that its waste is turned to the energy that is used to fire the boilers at its manufacturing plants in Hima and Tororo. Hima Cement also uses petcoke in its manufacturing process and has a fully-fledged petcoke facility for the purpose.
Water and environment issues at Namanve & Bugolobi Industrial Areas:
Heavy flooding and poor infrastructure specifically road infrastructure were the two main issues raised by UMA. For instance, companies within Bugolobi, Uganda Baati, and other companies within that location are always affected during the rainy season due to the clogging of the Nakivubo channel. KCCA has come on board in this case to forge a solution although it alone cannot handle the problem. There is also no egress for wastewater flow out of the Namanve Industrial and Business Park. Storm water flooding has been reported at Britannia Allied Industries and not only has this affected their machinery and equipment but also its downstream neighbours.
Remarks from Ministry of Water & Environment
MWE appreciated sustainable development initiatives as highlighted by UMA members and reiterated that government support to such initiatives would come stronger with continued engagement.
Past engagements with the private sector- MWE highlighted some of the past engagements with the private sector in the management of the environment citing collaboration with Coca-Cola Beverages and Nile Breweries in protecting River Rwizi and collaboration with Kinyara Sugar Works in protecting the Kiihi water catchment area.
In addition, Catchment protection around mini-Hydropower plants for instance is being done and promoted in a collaborative manner between developers/operators and MWE. These examples are proof that engagements between Government and the private sector are possible although they are currently being done as one-offs. The private sector and Government should therefore come together to play their roles in ensuring better environmental management while at the same time promoting economic growth
Loopholes in coordinating environmental management or compliance by government lead agencies were cited with the agencies at times contradicting each other. This, therefore, calls for a coordinated and strategic manner of collaboration between government agencies first then work together with the private sector harmoniously.
On the issue of tax relief for water or waste management-related equipment and machinery MWE advised that the Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development (MoFPED) would need to be the right government agency to approach since tax issues are outside the mandate of the MWE. However, MWE could play a leading role in presenting a business case on tax exemption, tax reliefs, and rebates to MoFPED. This is why a framework for collaboration comes crucial.
Jobs and wealth creation ambitions by Government will not be achievable without private sector involvement. MWE has started an internship program for graduates in water and environment-related qualifications. But MWE observed that not all graduates are being absorbed. Options could be explored to extend this internship program to the private sector working in collaboration with MWE.
Government program working groups - NDP III has a program-based approach aimed at bringing different sectors together to achieve their common goals. UMA was encouraged to join these program working groups especially the environment and natural resource working group that provides a platform for decision making and addressing some of the challenges.
That the breakfast meeting becomes an annual event on both the MWE & UMA Calendars through the annual UWEWK series of activities. However, to begin with, it was proposed that the next breakfast meeting be held in 6 months’ time (September 2021).
That a follow-up meeting is held between UMA and MWE before the end of April 2021. The follow-up meeting will be hosted by MWE at its Head offices. The purpose of the follow-up meeting will be to bring on board more key officials from MWE and to concretise the modalities of formalising the proposed engagement platform between UMA & MWE.