Nairobi 11th October – In a move hailed by conservationists in Uganda, the country’s lawmakers have unanimously rejected the government’s plan to construct a hydropower dam at the country’s biggest tourist attraction.
Backed by a report by the parliamentary committee on environment, the lawmakers unanimously adopted the report’s rejection of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development’s proposal to build a 360MW at Uhuru Falls on Murchison Falls national park aimed at boosting the country’s electricity supply in order to achieve the “desired socio-economic transformation”, per Uganda’s vision 2040.
“Whereas the benefits of hydroelectricity are numerous, the country needs to pursue means of sustainably utilizing its natural resources, a feat that requires a delicate balance of trade-offs,” said the report, presented by Keefa Kiwanuka, the committee’s chair.
“The Uhuru project, while promising to add to the generation capacity of the country, poses irreversible impacts on the already constrained Murchison Falls national park and other sectors of the economy,” it said.
Environmental groups, the tourism industry, and climate change networks have hailed the parliamentary decision. It remains to be seen whether Uganda’s cabinet will respect parliament’s recommendations.
Murchison Falls national park is home to some of the most famous and powerful waterfalls in the world and the site is responsible for a third of all tourism in Uganda. The area is listed as one of Unesco’s wetlands of international importance. But last June, Bonang Power and Energy, a South African company, applied for a license to build a 360MW hydro plant at Uhuru Falls – adjacent to Murchison Falls. It was a further blow to conservationists, already concerned that energy company Total E&P Uganda had been approved to develop six oilfields in the park.
The East African Wild Life Society urges the Ugandan government to invest in other, less impactful renewable sources of energy including solar, wind and biomass.