Tour operators under their umbrella body, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) have held a peaceful demonstration over plans to have plant constructed along the Murchison Falls.
In June, Electricity Regulatory Authority in an advertisement in the newspapers said in accordance with section 29 of the Electricity Act 1999, they had received a notice of intended application of a license from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited for the generation and sale of electricity from a hydropower plant proposed to be established near Murchison falls in Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts.
The same has since attracted a backlash from the public especially tourism enthusiasts.
On Thursday, the tour operators led by the chairperson, Everest Kayondo moved with placards denouncing the move by government marched from Hotel Africana up to Parliament from where they were intercepted by police.
In the resultant scuffle, their placards were confiscated by police officers and the crowd asked to disperse, with only the AUTO chairperson and his deputy allowed to proceed to meet the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and handed over their petition.
Kadaga promised to respond to the petition by Monday.
The demonstration comes at a time when there were reports that government had abandoned the plan to construct a hydropower project on the Murchison Falls.
However, according to AUTO chairperson, Everest Kayondo all this is intended to hoodwink the public of on what is happening on the ground.
“Our efforts to petition various Government offices as well as our objection to the Electricity Regulatory Authority. Until now, there is no formal reply to the same.”
The tour operators also accused government of doing its maneuvers behind the public’s back in regards the hydropower project along the Murchison Falls.
“Government keeps on saying nothing is going to happen to the falls but the developments on the ground state otherwise. We are scared government is saying one thing and doing another,” Kayondo told journalists two weeks ago.
“It seems as we are negotiating for the falls to stay, in the background, plans to destroy the same are ongoing.”
The Association of Uganda Tour Operators also says it is appalling that a sector (tourism) which is funded to a tune of less than one percent but earns government over 10% is now under attack.
“If we revived our airline targeting mostly tourists but behind we are trying to destroy a tourist attraction then we have poor planners. Who will the Uganda Airlines transport if Murchison Falls is washed away? Something seems amiss.”
Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner to the Ugandan government.
About the Murchison Falls
The Murchison falls are found on the 1000metres wide Nile River which is the longest in the world but at the falls’ site, the river folds from 1000metres to form a narrow gorge of only 7metres (23 ft) wide before plunging 43 metres (141 ft).
The beautiful scenery as the water swirls around the gorge is a beauty to watch.
Murchison Falls National Park receives the largest number of tourists of the 10 game parks that Uganda has but according to statistics from UBOS.