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.
With age and time, you can see how a government returns with same empty promises and pledges. It is like President Yoweri Kaguta Musveni and his allies comes every time after a disaster. However, they are not planning to do anything. They are talking of making differences, that is why they had made a District Development Plan in April 2011. Where the district planned both tree-planting and building the road, which was promised the year before. Also, in National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management in 2010, which stated who had responsibilities concerning landslide. Therefore, the state has worked on plans and securing the area, but they have not acted upon it.
Today, I am just compiling a few promises over the years to the district, to prove the lack of act and lack of following up on promises. If this was a district the government cared about, they would have acknowledge the dangers and the landslides. As the death-toll is happening nearly yearly after the rainfall and the knowledge of this common. It is not like this is new problem. The state could have built the roads and could have ensured the earth erosion wouldn’t worsen, but never cared for doing so. Therefore, I have listed the promises since 2010 until today.
Promised a road in 2010:
“President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has directed for the immediate construction of a road leading up to Nametsi village in Bududa, the scene of the landslide disaster which claimed more than 300 people last week. The Lack of access roads to Nametsi village has severely affected the rescue efforts as earth moving equipments can not be transported to the disaster scene. The village which is located on Mt. Elgon can only be reached on foot as vehicles stop more than ten kilometers away” (Joseph Elunya – ‘President Museveni Orders for Construction of Road to Landslide Scene in Bududa’ 08.03.2010, link: https://ugandaradionetwork.com/story/president-museveni-orders-for-construction-of-road-to-landslide-scene-in-bududa).
Presidential Directive in 2012:
“The directive by President Yoweri Museveni to have survivors of Monday’s landslides in Bududa district relocated to other places within the country has drawn mixed reactions among the locals in the area. President Museveni through a message by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, on Wednesday directed that all those living in high risk slopes of Mount Elgon should be unconditionally relocated. The President suggested that the government could also construct urban settlements within the district to have them settled there. The directive followed the June 25 landslides that buried at least two villages in Bulucheke Sub County, Bududa district. It is still not clear how many people have died, with government putting the figure at about 18 while local leaders saying the dead could be over 100. Some of the survivors welcome the idea of having urban centers constructed within the district, but many equally say they would not move to any place outside Bududa” (Michael Wambi – ‘Mixed Reactions to Museveni’s Bududa Directive’ 29.07.2012, link: https://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=43316).
Promise of a road in 2015:
“The President announced that the road from Magodesi to Lwakhakha will be tarmac and adding that the work is slated to begin in February 2016. He also said that Manafwa road will be extended to Bududa but called for patience as the government implements these projects in phases according to the availability of financial resources. “Money is not like the sun. We do government work step by step because not all programmes can be undertaken at the same time,” he explained” (Uganda Media Centre – ‘“Mass Industrialization to Solve Youth Unemployment”- President Museveni’ 27.08.2015, link: http://www.mediacentre.go.ug/press-release/%E2%80%9Cmass-industrialization-solve-youth-unemployment%E2%80%9D-president-museveni).
Promise of a road in 2017:
““There are very many stones on this mountain waiting to kill you people, but instead of these stones being a problem, we are going to blast them to make good tarmac roads,” he said, adding that government has also for funds to tarmac the Mbale-Sironko road” (…) “In September, this year, at least 10 people were reportedly buried alive after the mudslide occurred in Sironko and several houses were also left buried in Bududa district” (Max Patrick Ocaido – ‘President Museveni Visits Landslide Victims’ 22.11.2017, link: https://kampalapost.com/content/news/president-museveni-visits-landslide-victims).
“On government’s behalf I apologize for the delayed resettlement of those living in landslide-prone areas to safer places, and commit that this process will be fast-tracked to avoid any further casualities. I was let down by my people. I apologize on their behalf. A plan was made and the people had agreed to move but it seems there was lack of coordination in government. I apologise for this, we are now going to move very fast” (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, 14.10.2018).
We can really see how the President promises and doesn’t keep them. That is why the Bududa District Plan of 2010 wasn’t even followed, neither the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management of 2011, both wasn’t followed. That shows the contempt of the district and their needs.
That is why it is special that the President comes with the same promise after a landslide in 2018, as he did in 2012 and until last year he promised a road to help out the area. Clearly, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) are not prioritizing the needs or the costs of lives that is happening here. As it is happening yearly and still the state doesn’t act upon it.
That is time to stop and actually follow up on the pledges, the promises and the needs of the District. That he also have visited several times of AK 47 and military fatigue, shows how he acts concerning the pains of the citizens. He didn’t do that today, but has done that in the past.
When, he promise quick progress and apologize for lateness, that is at least 6 years ago since he written a directive on relocation that the state haven’t been able to follow upon or allocate the funds. Peace.
There has been a real tragedy again befallen on the Mount Elgon Region, as the Budabuda District was hit with another landslide. This is a district that is known for this and has had fatal landslides in the past, as the rain of October and November can create landslide in the eroded land and in the slopes of the hills, where people reside and have their small farms. Therefore, this isn’t a new problem. There are reports on the matter, but still this week was hit with it again and new losses of lives. Which is such a tragedy. In 2010, there was estimated 100 dead in Namesti Village in the district. By today, in the district the Red Cross says the number of dead is up to 42. All of which is a lot, as there are supposed to be safeguards and warning systems, also funds to secure help as the disaster happens.
After the last big landslide, the district MP Olive Wonekha wrote this: “Putting a system in place to cater for all the emergencies has not been easy. The Government of Uganda together with many well-wishers including the Red Cross Society which is at the forefront of the humanitarian aid, Development Partners are grappling with the medium and long-term solution to the issue” (AAH Uganda, 02.04.2010).
As we have sadly seen from this week, that haven’t really been put in place and in order. As the government nor the stakeholders has taken charge, as they all know this. What is special is that the Bududa District even made a Development Plan in April 2011, which stated this:
“Factors responsible for this phenomenon include; Human activities (steep slope cultivation, cultivation on river banks, deforestation) and excessive rains” (Bududa District – ‘Five-Year District Development Plan’ 27.04.2011). In the same plan, they have a plan for adding more forest and trees in slopes to stop erosion in the soil, we can wonder if they ever got the one road they needed and the seedlings to do so. That they could do one thing to secure the slopes and hills. As the rain pour is steady and known about in the region.
We understand why the Local Government and District has little say in the matter of disaster, as the Office of Prime Minister says they are number 12 on the list of responsible in 2010, but a technical note from 2015, says it is local government who is legal obligation. Its not strange, that their will confusion and uncertainty who has the final say and who should step into action.
OPM report on ‘THE NATIONAL POLICY FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND MANAGEMENT’ from 2010 states: “Community settlement on steep slopes and other uncontrolled land use practices increase the likelihood of landslides and mudslides prevalence. The areas mostly affected by Landslides are Mt. Elgon region, Ruwenzori region and Kigezi”. Than later it says who is the responsible institutions: “i. National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) (lead Institution)
ii. Ministry of Water and Environment
iii. Department of Geological and Mine Survey
iv. National Forest Authority (NFA)
v. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)
vi. Makerere University, Geography Dept.
vii. Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
viii. Ministry of Lands and Housing and Urban Development
ix. Ministry of Local Government
x. Ministry of Works and Transport
xi. Office of the Prime Minister – Department of Disaster Preparedness and Management
xii. District Local Governments
xiii. NARO and other Research Institutions
xiv. Community and Private Sector
xv. Ministry of Defence and other Rescue Agencies
xvi. UN Agencies and NGOs
xvii. Ministry of Health” (OPM – ‘THE NATIONAL POLICY FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND MANAGEMENT’ 2010).
A technical report commissioned by the UNDP on behalf of the Office of the Prime Minister in August 2015 states this about landslides: “Herewith each district environment committee is responsible to take necessary measures to minimise the risk of environmental degradation of riverbanks and shores. Similarly section 38 highlights the identification of hilly and mountainous areas and also places a legal obligation on local government for the assessment of such areas in terms of environmental degradation. In light of the significant landslide risk within Uganda, this element should go along way in addressing landslide risk” (OPM – ‘Governance of disaster risk reduction and management in Uganda: A literature review’ 2015).
What I have been looking into is what the reports of old is saying. Not looking into the issue of Contingency Fund, but showing a final Press Statement from CSBAG to show the lack of care from the government concerning this:
“We want to applaud government’s proposal of allocating UGX 77bn to the contingency fund; this being the first time the provision of the PFMA of constituting a contingency fund is being implemented. However, the proposed allocation is below the 0.5% of the previous financial year’s budget as provided by Section 26 of the PMFA 2015 as amended, we pray that an additional UGX 66 bn be provided to fully implement the provision of the PFMA. We demand that Government respects the percentage towards Disaster response and management as required by the law under the Contingency Fund” (CSBAG – ‘UGANDA IS NOT FLOOD RESISTANT… IT’S TIME TO ACT’ 26.03.2018).
When we see it like this, the state is clearly not managing the disaster response or the funds for possibly coping with it. As the landslide this week is showing, is that the government of Uganda isn’t prepared and their citizens are paying. As well, as the local government doesn’t have the funds or ability to ensure their own 5 year development plan. Which was made a year after the biggest landslide in the recent decade. Therefore, the state knows about this, but still doesn’t act upon it.
We have to question the OPM and the other government institutions, not only the Local Government who hasn’t acted, but they might lack the budget and the expertise, that all the other responsible institutions in this manner.
What is sad is the loss of lives and the knowledge of plans and lack of inadequate funds… which could have saved lives and ensured a better disaster response. Something everyone deserves, as the government knows this region is hit with this, as the rains of September and October can make the land erosion. Therefore, time to push for the government to really act, so next time there be less loss of life and more action to ones in need when it do happen. Peace.