The recent change of position by the government to abandon the conversion of the Murchison Falls into a hydro power dam, is unbelievable. I nearly went mad upon learning that a South African company was about to develop a dam at the Murchison Falls.
On many occasions, President Museveni is heard referring to Murchison Falls as his next plan of action for the construction of a dam to boost power generation. Little did I know that the President was bent on making his dream a reality. Dams are not environmentally-friendly with nature and their construction should have limits.
Uganda should watch out on what is likely to happen should the construction of dams on river basins in Uganda continue. The future of the water falls in Uganda would be at stake as the water supply base would be weakening owing to the continuous state of deforestation and wetland reclamation.
The forest cover in the country has been depleted from 24 per cent in the 1990s, to a mere 8 per cent today. The cause of that unfortunate event ranges from poverty levels to unaffordable electricity tariffs.
The rampant destruction of wetlands throughout Uganda is alarming and should stop. In Kalungu District, the Lwera wetland, which purifies Lake Victoria waters, may dry up any time from now due to the growing of rice mounted on it by a Chinese commercial farm.
A government which does not know the price of its natural resources does not deserve to hold power. No country in Africa possesses the equivalence of what the Murchison Falls represent environmentally. We should guard that resource unreservedly.
The Murchison Falls are spectacular and any attempt to deny them natural existence could spark off a global tourism revolution. Geographically, the Murchison Falls are the force behind Victoria Nile, which bisects the park zone from what used to be Karuma Falls running through the delta to Lake Albert where 50 tributaries are created and flow to the thick unique papyrus swamp.
Those falls are a notable feature on the Nile River. It is on top of the falls that the Nile forces its way through a gap of some seven metres wide after slipping for about 40 metres westwards into Lake Albert. The coincidental meeting between the two prominent water bodies thereon, is a talking site to “Man”.
I cherish the vibrant sparks of the Murchison Falls and in my book, The Talk of Nature to Man – 20 years of Kabaka Muteesa II, I make the following poetic observations: “Uganda is a nation of many nations, with diverse cultures and diverse peoples. At the Murchison Falls, when the waters flow, the lions roar, the giraffe yawn and the rains fall”.
Around the Murchison Falls is where you find the Shoebill stork and the African skimmer, which are globally threatened.
At Chobe Safari Lodge within the Murchison Falls National Park, a night’s stay in the Villa, is an hour’s stay in heaven on Earth. As you sail through the Nile waters towards the falls, you see hordes of hippos and crocodiles moving to greet their visitors with joy.
The Minister of Water and Environment should advise the government about the hazards related to the excessive construction of hydro power dams. Those dams generate toxic gases like methane, which affect the fish habitat, leading to stunted fish growth and even death due to the de-oxygenation of the water environment.
The same dams may cause drastic changes in the flow of water hence unravelling the ecology of a given water system. In the process of doing so, the waters may die and according to the dictates of biology, dead waters don’t last.
Uganda’s traditional leaders should be commended for the role they played in protecting our natural resources much before independence. Kabaka Mwanga and Omukama Kabalega did not only protect Uganda’s natural resources like forests and water bodies, but they also demonstrated competence in the administration of their respective polities. It was along those lines that Sir Winston Churchill summarily defined Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa”.
By 1926, the Murchison Falls had already been declared a game reserve. The tourist sector, which contributes more than $1.4b per annum towards Uganda’s GDP, would be incomplete without the Murchison Falls National Park.
The forests and the wetland zones on which the forces of waterfalls basically depend, are the natural engine behind Hydro-power generation. We have not paid sufficient attention in protecting the green environment on which the lifeline of waterfalls depend. We have also not appreciated the role government and local governments have to play in protecting rivers, wetlands, and forest reserves as stated under Article 237(2)(b) of the Constitution.
Heaven knows whether Uganda’s President still recalls the responsibility vested in him of protecting all existing forest covers wherever they are as per Resolution 40 of Agenda 21 in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Mr Lukyamuzi is a former MP, Rubaga South.