Members of Parliament on the Committee on Natural Resources have expressed concern over a feasibility study on the Uhuru Falls in Masindi district, to establish its suitability for the construction of a hydroelectric dam.
While meeting MPs on the committee chaired by Hon. Keefa Kiwanuka (NRM, Kiboga East), State Minister for Energy, Hon. Simon D'Ujanga said Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with M/S Bonang Power and Energy Ltd from South Africa, to undertake detailed feasibility studies.
“The company applied for a permit to the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to carry out a detailed feasibility study to guide the decision on the development of the Uhuru Hydropower Project,” said D’Ujanga.
He added that M/S Bonang will lead a consortium of other companies including Norconsult and JSC Institute Hydroproject to carry out the feasibility studies.
Available literature shows that in 1962, Uganda received heavy rainfall which forced part of Murchison Falls to create a tributary that formed Uhuru Falls, just metres away from Murchison.
Aswa County MP, Hon. Reagan Okumu, observed that it was unnecessary to develop a dam on a site that is considered a major tourism attraction for the country, adding that the feasibility studies were uncalled for.
“There are other potential projects like the Ayago Hydropower Project which will bring about 840 megawatts to the national grid from the Victoria Nile. Why don’t we prioritise such projects and leave Uhuru falls alone?” asked Okumu.
MPs said the prospect of a power project on Uhuru/Murchison falls was diversionary and the energy ministry and the Electricity Regulatory Authority was not addressing the key concern of nationwide access to electricity.
“We need a serious strategic direction in as far as connectivity of all Ugandans on the national grid is concerned. We have power that can be consumed from other hydropower stations in this country, so we should not be diverted,” said Antony Okello (NRM, Kioga County).
D’Ujanga told MPs that Cabinet agreed to have a feasibility study conducted on Uhuru Falls, to establish the current geology of the falls, as well as to be within the confines of the law in case of any proposed future works.
Sylvia Birungi, a Senior Out-Put Based Aid Programme Officer at the Rural Electrification Agency informed the committee members that 253,000 connections had been made across the country so far, adding that there was a challenge of availability connection material to continue works.
“Honourable Members, there is a financing gap of US$31 million to complete connections across the country and we appeal for more support from the finance ministry so that we can expedite this work,” said Birungi.
She added that the REA through the energy ministry was lobbying the World Bank, seeking financial support to support the roll-out activities of connections of all Ugandans to the national grid.