Tourism enthusiasts and conservationists have organized a 5km marathon to raise awareness for the endangered Murchison Falls.
Government recently mooted a plan to construct a hydropower dam on the Victoria Nile and 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 since received resentment from all corners of the tourism and conservation industries.
However, addressing journalists at a news conference on Tuesday, Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) chairman, Everest Kayondo said there is need to raise awareness to the entire public about the need to conserve the country’s natural heritage for future generations.
“Recently parliament warned government against doing a feasibility study but we very well know things in Uganda can turn around. We want to have more people in the know of the importance of having Murchison Falls so they can join the cause to fight for it,” Kayondo said.
“We need to ensure our heritage is protected not by politicians but the population.”
Kayondo said that despite being a run for fun, it will also be for educational and health purposes to members of the public who will participate.
“Tourism contributed 25% of the country’s foreign exchange last year but also 10% of the total GDP yet little is injected into the industry. Statistics also show that over 31% of the tourists who came to Uganda last year also visited Murchison Falls. We want to make sure the falls are protected by the public but this can only happen if they have knowledge about their natural heritage,” he said.
According to the organisers, the proceeds from the run will go to creating alternative sustainable revenue sources for vulnerable communities near Murchison Falls national park.
“We have a plan to build capacity for communities around all national parks but we have started with Murchison Falls. We want to give them skills to enable them sustain themselves to put pressure off the national parks so they can be conserved for future generations,” Gloria Tumwesigye, the AUTO CEO told journalists.
“The communities near parks are the poorest yet the tourism industry is one of the richest. We need to empower them.”
Benedict Ntale, the AUTO vice chairperson said despite other projects already in place, they are not enough to sustain communities around national parks who are crucial in the tourism industry.
“Communities around national parks are the most important when it comes to conservation. We must, therefore, ensure they have something to sustain them,”Ntale said.
The Murchison fun run is scheduled to be held on March 22 starting at the Uganda Museum.