The bursts of anger and protests by Ugandans over reports that government has agreed with a South African investor to build a 360MW hydropower dam at Murchison Falls, warns of one thing – keep off our jewel on the Nile. This investment misadventure warns that our government has no list of our national treasures that have been ring-fenced for future generations to see, enjoy and celebrate.
Had Uganda such detailed inventory of unique treasures, Murchison Falls would not be eyed by an investor that seeks not to enhance, but destroy one of our key tourism drivers and forex earners. Neither would any government ministry, department nor agency toy with this misguided proposition from Bonang Power, and Energy Pty.
Surprisingly, this move brushes off hard economic facts that tourism is our biggest foreign exchange earner, fetching $1.5 billion (about Shs5.6 trillion) yearly. Therefore, what Uganda needs is to develop and promote more tourism, wildlife and heritage to make Uganda more competitive and preferred tourist destination, not destroy one of its strikingly beautiful magnets, Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls and national park are as significant as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Rwenzori Mountains National Park, which are recognised by Unesco as World Heritage Sites.
Similarly, Murchison Falls National Park remains Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area. It hosts one of our most remarkable big game, including elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles and birds. The spectacular waterfalls give name to the park. Just as beautifully captured by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, the waterfalls, which dramatically shower and tumble 45 metres over the rift valley wall, is the centrepiece of Murchison Falls National Park, without which the park is nameless.
Murchison has attracted big visitors from overseas, including former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, former US President Theodore Roosevelt, one of British greatest novelist Ernest Hemingway, and more recently foremost American rapper Kanye West, wife and reality TV star Kim Kardashian. It is, therefore, an abuse of our national logic to seek to enhance and promote our tourism, wildlife, and heritage resources while seeking to destroy one such unique natural grandeur.
Laughably, our British colonialist masters put our current leaders to shame, because more than 93 years ago, they sought to protect Murchison Falls that we are seeking to destroy today. The British had better vision and gazetted the area as a game reserve as far back as 1926.
We, therefore, advise that government through the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, should urgently ring-fence the priceless and iconic Murchison Falls and list it among protected national heritage sites.