Sunday October 27 2013

Solar Eclipse to draw thousands to Pakwach

The Pakwach bridge across River Nile. Thousands of local and foreign tourists

The Pakwach bridge across River Nile. Thousands of local and foreign tourists are expected to visit the area to view the eclipse. PHOTO BY FELIX WOROM 

By Dear Jeanne

Kampala- On November 3, the world will again witness the unique seven-minute eclipse.
Pakwach Town Council has been a bee-hive of activities for the last one week as the district makes preparations for the watching of the rare event.

The Ministry of Tourism predicts that about 30,000 foreign tourists and thousands of local tourists will be at the event. President Museveni will also be in the West Nile town to watch the eclipse.
The government had earlier allocated Shs700 million to facilitate the occasion, including construction and renovation of various tourism sites.

The best view of the hybrid solar eclipse will be at Owiny Primary School, now referred to as the ‘Eclipse School” by locals. The school is in Panyango Sub-county, Pakwach Town in Nebbi District and is being renovated for the occasion.

The view will, however, not be limited to Pakwach as residents of Arua, Soroti, Masindi and Gulu districts will also have a chance to watch it.

During the previous hybrid solar eclipse in March 16, 1466, a stretch of totality was sandwiched between annular views at the beginning and end. This year’s edition is especially rare because it begins with annularity and ends with totality.

According to the Tourism minister, Ms Maria Mutagamba, this natural occurrence will attract a lot of international and domestic visitors to these regions to witness the solar eclipse, an opportunity the ministry is prepared to grab with open hands.

With most lodges, hotels and motels in Pakwach, Nebbi, Arua, Gulu, Nwoya and Masindi already booked by local and foreigner guests, the district authorities are contemplating setting up camping sites to accommodate some of the tourists.

The Nebbi District chief accounting officer, Mr Mark Ivu, said several committees have been formed to handle the preparations. “We have been meeting on a regular basis; even now we are at the site. It will take a lot of effort given that the event is not only limited to the eclipse viewing but there will also be visits to different tourism sites in the area,” Mr Ivu said.

The eclipse is expected to appear between midday and 2pm.

The event has the potential to promote tourism in Uganda, investment in the Albertine and West Nile regions and to promote West Nile as a major border entry point to DR Congo and Sudan.

Nebbi District police commander Onesmus Mwesigwa said security had been beefed up and guests had already started arriving.