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The Murchison Falls Drama of 2019: A unique National Park possibly destroyed over some hydropower!

In the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) in 2019, the UIA released a report, the 3rd Edition of “Bankable Projects – Viable Investment Opportunity” among those are tourism investments, which is one point of attracting more tourists to Murchison Falls. Where they are proposing building High-End Cottages, Luxurious Hotels, House-Boats, Cruise Launches, Walking Safaris for instance. So, the state and its authorities has the ideas for what’s of value at Murchison Falls. However, today they back-tracked their earlier verdict of August 2019 and plan to do it anyway. Which is disgraceful and possibly starting a process, which will cause harm to one of the national treasures. That is world renown, but still that doesn’t seem to matter.

As the Electric Regulatory Authority clarification of June 2019 said:

ERA is mandated under Section 29 of the Electricity Act, 1999 (‘the Act’), to receive and process applications for licenses. In line with this mandate, on 25th April 2019, ERA received an Application for a permit to conduct feasibility studies from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited” (…) “A permit issued under sub-section (1) of Section 31 of the Act allows the intended applicant to carry out studies and any other activity that may be necessary to enable the intended applicant to prepare an application for a license to construct a Power Plant” (ERA – ‘CLARIFICATION ON THE NOTICE OF INTENDED APPLICATION BY BONANG POWER

AND ENERGY (PTY) LIMITED TO ESTABLISH A 360 MW HYDROPOWER PLANT NEAR

MURCHISON FALLS’ 11.06.2019).

So, ERA have given the Bonang Power and Energy a permit to do assessment and ability to do a conduct feasibility studies of the Murchison Falls for possible building a power plant there. This is the first step of plenty to ensure the falls in the National Park are built. It starts with a permit and later another permit and memorandum of understanding between the Republic and the company.

Also, the letter of Association of Uganda Tour Operators Ltd called ‘PLANNED CONSTRUCTION OF HYDROPOWER DAM OVER THE MURCHISON FALLS’, where it says: “Murchison Waterfalls from the top all the way to the delta at its confluence with Lake Albert including Uhuru Falls, is a Ramsar site, designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Conventionon Wetlands; an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which Uganda is also signatory to. His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda has numerous times mentioned that we have more electricity than we are consuming and surplus is increasing. This cannot be the time to trade-off a natural wonder of the world for an electricity dam” (Association of Uganda Tour, 10.06.2019).

As this continues… the Minister said this in August 2019. Peter Lokeris MP, Minister of State for Mineral Development statement on the 21st August 2019: “On 25th April 2019, the Electricity Regulatory Authority received a Notice of intended Application for a Permit from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited to undertake feasibility studies and other related activities in respect of the proposed 360 MW Uhuru Hydropower project to guide the decision on development” (…) “These facts were brought to the attention of Cabinet for discussion and further guidance. Colleagues, I wish to report to parliament that Cabinet decided that Uhuru site and Murchison Sites should for now not be developed for hydropower generation. The site will be retained as it is and conserved for tourism activities” (Lokeris, 21.08.2019).

UWA says irs unthinkable:

The Construction of a dam at Murchison falls was termed as “unthinkable” by Uganda Wildlife Authority and vowed to fight the project. Similarly, part of Bugoma forest home to over 500 chimpanzees is to be destroyed for sugar cane plantation. Situated in the hearty of Murchison falls national park, Murchison falls is one of the natural wonders after Which Uganda was called the “Pearl of Africa”. The falls is undeniably one of the top tourist attractions in the country, a must visit by most travelers on Uganda safari” (Uganda Gorilla Tour – ‘UWA To Fight The Construction Of A Power Dam At Murchison Falls By ERA’ 18.06.2019).

So today, this is the news still: “We should 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,” Kiwanda said. Government says that as Uganda’s economy is getting industrialised, more electricity needs to be added to the national grid to power the industries. The proposed power dam is estimated to produce 360MW of power” (Norman Mwambasi – ‘Murchinson Falls in danger as Cabinet resumes plans of power plant construction, 28.11.2019).

We know that the state has back-tracked today. That Ernest Moloi is surely on the right way and the path of succeeding in building a power plant in the middle of Murchinson National Park. That should be avoided. That is if the UIA and UWA get their way, then the public have saved one area.

The State told in August it would ditch the permit study the falls for a possible dam. That’s the first official step and also touching it. To see if there is viable possibility to build a dam, which the fall can create a hydropower plant there.

This is one of the places the state should avoid. Just like the Sipi Falls and others, which are landmarks and unique. Where they can continue to take care of the environment and still earn foreign currency on the tourists visiting. The last few years statistics too, shows that the Murchison Falls Park is the most popular to visit after Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Its really tragic that the state opens up for this in November, when they said no in August. The outcry will be the same and the proof that short-term gains is more important for sustainable growth for this government. Everything can be destroyed and measured into hard currency, without any consideration for the aftermath.

Murchison Falls should be saved. Point blank. Period.

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