Lawyers criticise Murchison Falls park give-away

Thursday February 13 2020

Lawyers have questioned the government decision to consider giving away Murchison Falls National Game Park for construction of a hydro-power dam and warned that it would lead to violation of peoples’ rights and environmental degradation.

Under their umbrella Uganda Law Society (ULS), the lawyers argued that the development is marred by irregularities and violations which would cost the economy.
“The people doing due diligence by way of impact assessment are the very people who want to construct the dam. We thank the government for the energy but while we need development, it should not come at the expense of our environment and livelihood,” Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, the ULS president, said.

He added: “That is a falls that attracts tourists from all over the world and considerably contribute to the ecosystem. With the changing weather pattern that is no longer favourable to majority of our people who are farmers, we think that the bid to construct the dam should not be considered at this point.”
Mr Kinobe was responding to the statement in which State Minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga told Members of Parliament that findings of the feasibility study would inform government’s next course of action on whether or not to construct the controversial dam on the River Nile.

The minister said government signed a memorandum of understanding with Bonang Energy and Power Limited from South Africa on December 12, 2017, and the same company applied for a permit with Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to carry out the study to guide their decision on the development of the proposed Uhuru Hydro-power project.
Mr Kinobe said there are various alternative sources of energy and government should start evaluating them.
“The first thing to be assumed is the presence of senior government advisor, how did government sign the memorandum of understanding without considering issues of conflict of interest,” he wondered.

Issue. In a separate interview, Environmentalists described the government move as blindfolding Ugandans by people who want to grab the land.
“Whoever is interested in grabbing that area is going through funny things like Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and feasibility studies and thereafter to justify their mess,” Gaster Kiyingi, an environment expert, said.
Mr Kiyingi said Murchishon Falls is located in an environmentally sensitive part of the game park which cannot be subjected in any way to the EIA because it an outright ‘no’ to development.