Government has said a feasibility study to be undertaken soon will determine the fate of the proposed construction of a hydropower dam at Murchison Falls.
A notice published by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) indicating that government has published an application from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited from South Africa to construct a dam on the Murchison but the same has since drawn a public uproar .
Addressing journalists on Tuesday, the Energy Minister, Irene Muloni said the dam will not be constructed at Murchison Falls but rather adjacent to it at Uhuru Falls which a distance of 500 metres apart.
“Uhuru Falls and Murchison Falls are separate falls that are adjacent to each other. Our focus is on Uhuru site,”Muloni said.
The Energy Minister said the South African company is set to carry out a feasibility study that will determine the fate of 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.
The Minister explained that the feasibility study will help determine the technical, environmental, social, economic and financial viability of the project and whether to undertake it or not.
“Government will ensure thorough supervision of the feasibility study so that its interests are taken into consideration including benchmarking where similar projects have been previously undertaken in ecologically sensitive areas.”
The Tourism Minister, Prof.Ephraim Kamuntu complemented Muloni’s comments, saying that government is committed to ensuring Uganda’s natural endowment remains.
“I want to assure you that conservation of the environment and natural endowment is not a choice for anyone but a duty for everyone. You should never doubt the commitment of government in the conservation of natural endowment,”Kamuntu said.
He said the feasibility study will be the only way to determine whether the natural endowment at Murchison Falls will be tampered with or not after construction of the hydropower dam.
“If the study tells us that we can maintain the natural beauty after the construction of the hydropower project, then we can go on with it.”
The minister underscored the role of tourism on the country’s development, saying government cannot undertake a project that would undermine the same.
“For every 100,000 extra tourists we get, it increases the country’s GDP by 1.6%, government, therefore cannot tamper with the natural endowment which attracts tourists. You have no reason to doubt us,” he said.
The Tourism sector last year earned Uganda Shs5. 8 trillion whereas Murchison Falls is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the county found in Murchison Falls National Park.
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.