By Gad Masereka
The Speaker of Parliament Presiding over the plenary on 18th June, joined a chorus of opposition environmentalists, tourism industry players and State Investment Minister Evelyn Anite to request Government cancel the proposed construction of a power dam in Murchison Falls National Park in Nakasongola District.
Speaker Kadaga requested Gov’t to positively respond to the growing objection of the dam project by the citizens. “On behalf of the citizens, I am seeking an assurance from the government that Murchison Falls is not going to be interfered with,” Kadaga stated.
In a June 7 notice, the power regulator, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), approved receipt of an application by a South African energy firm Bonang Power Energy Ltd, to build a hydropower-dam at Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya and Nakasongola districts.
“Bonang Power Energy (Pty) Limited intends to undertake detailed feasibility studies and other activities leading to the development of the above mentioned power project whose proposed installed capacity [will be] 360-megawatts,” the notice read in part.
This notice publication which was openly opposed by environmentalists and tourism sector participants who prompted an online petition, with more than 8,500 people had signed by last Wednesday, to oppose the proposed dam.
The state minister for Tourism, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu yesterday said “tourism is the main source of Uganda’s economy compared to other sectors. He added that what happened was just to notify the public about the project that was going to be done on Murchison falls.
According to the Tourism report, the number of tourists coming to Uganda in 2018 had increased from 300,000 to 1.4 million from the year before, thus bringing more dollars, with Murchison Falls National Park being the second biggest contributor to the tourism industry. The cascading River Nile water that thunders down through a 43-metres deep gorge at Murchison Falls, according to the minister, is a natural splendor and “cash cow for tourism” that should remain untouched.
The State Minister for Investment Hon. Evelyn Anite on saturday questioned whether they was need for a rush to acknowledging the South African energy firm. “I don’t see the logic of constructing a dam and generating electricity there,” Ministers Anite said last Saturday, adding, “I agree with the bigger public opinion that we (government) should not. The country is on tension; the hoteliers are on tension and our tourism industry is under threat, we need early assurance on this issue,” she said.
Anite added that said it was wrong for an investor to eye Murchison Falls to build a dam and asked the government and prospective energy players to explore other undeveloped sites, including those on Ayago River.