Cabinet has recommended that a feasibility study be done before a decision is made on whether or not a power dam should be built at Murchison Falls.
The revelation was made by State minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda while addressing a stakeholders meeting convened by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Kampala yesterday.
Mr Kiwanda revealed that government is in the process of drafting a paper to steer the feasibility study process.
“I know Cabinet will come up with a paper and we shall base our argument on the findings of the environmental impact assessment and other science considerations before we take on such a project,” he said.
In August, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said Cabinet had rejected the idea of building a dam on the falls following outcry from conservationists who argued that the move would affect the ecosystem and impact on tourism.
At yesterday’s meeting, conservationists said the request for a feasibility study is a cover-up by government to justify its decision to build a dam at the falls.
“Once we okay the feasibility study, the debate will shift. It will be a question of about how we mitigate the negative impacts that come with the development of the dam,” Dr Simon Nampindo, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said.
He added: “This is because it is obvious that if you [do] a feasibility study, it is likely that it will have an economic justification as opposed to the scientific implication.”
Dr Nampindo revealed that Murchison Falls National Park is generating a lot of revenue for government in terms of tourism and building a dam there would all but end this venture. The meeting that was attended by heads of agencies, conservationists and government officials highlighted other challenges obstructing the growth of the tourism sector.
The UWA executive director, Mr Sam Mwandha, decried the high rate of poaching in national parks. “Every week, we arrest poachers. We arrest three to five people with mainly ivory on a weekly basis,” Mr Mwandha revealed.
He also revealed that the authority is grappling with shortage of staff to stop encroachment, mainly on Mt Elgon National Park.
“We currently have about 2,300 staff and of these, about 2,100 are in the wildlife areas,” Mr Mwandha said.
Petition. In June, a section of Ugandans created an online petition under the hashtag #SaveMurchisonFalls following reports that government was to build a power dam at the falls. About 5,000 people signed the petition.
This was after 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.