Businessman, Patrick Bitature, who is also the board chairman for electricity distribution company, Umeme has for the first time commented on the contentious issue concerning the proposed development of a power dam at the Murchison Falls.
Government recently proposed a plan to construct a hydropower dam on the Victoria Nile to this , the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) said it had received an application from Bonang Power Energy Limited, a South African company, expressing interest in generating and sale of the power from a plant that would be set up near Murchison Falls in Kiryandongo District.
The move has met stiff resistance, especially from tourism and conservation enthusiasts.
Speaking at a function on Thursday, Bitature admitted that the country needs more electricity but noted that Murchison Falls is as well useful.
“I encourage government to think carefully about what they are doing and not to rush in because we need power. I prefer that we promote tourism in the long run and Murchison Falls is such a unique place,”Bitature said.
He explained that despite government having a genuine point of ensuring the country is never caught off-guard when the demand for electricity exceeds the supply, there is need to factor in the benefits from tourism where the Murchison lies.
He, however, said the feasibility study should be able to guide on what should be done.
“Let us leave the space open for government to do feasibility studies, rather than be caught off-guard by sentimental reasons.”
The Minister for Energy, Irene Muloni last week told journalists that Cabinet had recommended for a feasibility study to be done before a decision is made on whether or not a power dam should be built at Murchison Falls.
“In order to make a scientifically informed decision, Cabinet reviewed its decision yesterday December 2, 2019 and agreed that a feasibility study is undertaken on the Uhuru falls site. In making the decision, Cabinet considered the need to have the feasibility study undertaken because that is the only scientific way to determine the impact of the project on the environment, tourism and ecology at the proposed site,”Muloni said adding that the dam will be constructed at Uhuru falls which is adjacent to Murchison falls.
However, tourism enthusiasts said government is hoodwinking the public on the project.
The Uhuru falls government is talking about is seasonal and it dries up during the dry season. We are wondering how government is to construct a dam on a seasonal fall,” the chairman, Association of Uganda Tour Operators, Everest Kayondo told journalists during a press conference on Tuesday on top of the Murchison Falls.
According to Kayondo, the feasibility study is used to hoodwink the public on what is exactly is going to be done by government.
“We are worried, the feasibility study is a gimmick but they are targeting Murchison falls because it cannot be that government is going to construct a dam on a seasonal fall. Why would the company supposed to construct the dam be the one to finance the feasibility study,”Kayondo wondered.
Despite being funded to a meagre 0.1%, in 2018 the Uganda government saw tourism contribute 10% to the Gross Domestic Product and 25% of the total foreign exchange earnings.