Cabinet Approval of Power Dam Revives Public Campaign to Save Murchison Falls

Tourists enjoy a cruise on River Nile while observing the scenic Murchison falls

There’s a revived public outcry following media reports that government has proceeded with plans to allow the construction of a hydro power dam near one of Uganda’s most spectacular natural attractions – Murchison falls.

Earlier this year, stakeholders in the tourism sector launched a protest calling on government to cancel plans for the dam project. They said this was a threat to the waterfalls and that it undermined efforts towards conservation.

The concerns stemmed from an advert carried in The New Vision newspaper on June 7, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) where ERA announced a notice of intended application for a license from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited.

Bonang intended to construct a hydropower at Uhuru falls upriver of the Murchison falls in Murchison falls national park.

The proposed site for the dam had coordinates similar to those of the Murchison waterfalls, which implies that the dam would be erected at the very place where the falls are situated.

In August, there were reports that Cabinet has reversed the decision, an action that was welcomed by the private tour operators.

However, on Thursday, New Vison daily newspaper reported that Cabinet has cleared feasibility studies for the construction of a dam at the Uhuru falls in the Murchison falls national park.

State Minister of Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda is quoted as having said on Wednesday that: “We need to investigate through the implications of the power dam. We have backtracked on an earlier decision where Cabinet had resolved that the feasibility study should not be conducted”.

The statement has again sparked outrage within the wider public as well as your operators.

Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris said on Thursday that the President is being misled.

“I think someone has misled the President… Government has built a highway through Murchison falls, oil exploration has its toll on Murchison falls,” Wekesa posted on Facebook.

“Now they want to build 3 extra dams in Murchison falls? Guys should simply say they don’t value tourism. You destroy Uhuru, you destroy Murchison falls, ” he added 

He said “we should defend Murchison falls”.

The latest development has revived a social media campaign under a hashtag #SaveMurchisonFalls with an aim to protect the attraction.

Tour operators have previously advised that government begins to explore other alternative sources of energy such as solar, bioenergy and other green energy systems.

“It is high time we rethought our strategy towards energy generation and distribution in order to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Evarist Kayondo, the Chairman of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators said in August.

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