The number of people who have signed an online petition against the proposal to build a dam at Murchison Falls in Murchison National Park had reached 8,665 signatures by 4 PM yesterday.
The protest has also sacked in Acholi cultural institution that equated the destruction of the falls to dismantling their heritage and lack of an understanding on how available resources are used.
Under the hashtag #savemurchisonfalls, conservationists and tourism players have been signing the petition as a sign of rejection of a proposal by a South African firm ----Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Ltd to build a dam that would generate a 360 megawatt of electricity.
“After we reach 10,000, we are going to petition the Speaker [of Parliament], we will petition the Prime Minister and the President,” Mr Amos Wekesa, one of the people behind the petition said yesterday.
Mr Ambrose Olaa, the prime minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, advised the government to look elsewhere to set up dams not Murchison Falls. He cited Ayago 1 and 2 in Nwoya District as alternatives to Murchison Falls.
“It is the pride of not only Acholi people but the world over. What is happening is criminal because they are going to hurt not only Ugandans but the world. There are many people who have come to see the falls and it is partly why we are called the Pearl of Africa,” Mr Olaa said.
Uganda has been setting up different power stations with the view of increasing its electricity capacity that would later facilitate the establishment of industries and create jobs. So far, the different dams that have been established on River Nile have destroyed a number of falls that were formerly used for water rafting.
The completed dams and those commissioned have the potential by 2020 to increase Uganda’s installed electricity capacity from 936MW to about 2,000MW.
However, a report released by Electric Power Development Company Ltd and Nippon Koei Co Ltd two years ago, indicates that power absorption still remains low. The report also stated that absorption was between 755MW to 1,094MW in 2018, will be between 881MW to 1,094MW in 2020 and between 1, 112MW to 1,538MW by 2023.
But in a previous interview with this newspaper, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), said between now and 2027, it intends to connect 300,000 families through rural electrification projects.
About $94 million (Shs361 billion) provided by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and KfW Development Bank has been budgeted for that.
Other measures to increase the consumption of electricity include encouraging investors to build factories in Uganda, lowering retail tariffs so that homeowners or businesspeople have no excuses not to use more electricity.
Yesterday, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, protested the move to have a dam at Murchsion Falls citing the importance of the tourism sector to the econmy.
They said 1.4 million tourists that visited Uganda last years, should be encouraged to come again by not tampering with Uganda’s beauty.
Mr Julius Wandera, the ERA spokesperson, said Uganda needs more electricity despite the current surplus.
“You do not need to wait for demand to outstrip supply. Constructing a dam takes four years,” he said. He, however, said there is no conclusion whether the dam will be built or not at Murchison Falls.
“We are required by law to receive any proposal and call for public views and that is why we advertised it. There is no need for alarm. This project is in its initial stage,” Mr Wandera said. There are three stages before ERA can issues a licence. First is a pre-feasibility, feasibility and then licencing.
“Instead of the public expressing their displeasure with the proposal on social media, they should instead write to us so that we know their support or rejection of the proposal,” he added.
About the company
Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Ltd, according to its website, was founded by Mr Ernest Moloi, “with intentions of breaking new ground in helping Africa to develop hydropower projects that could bring transformational change to the lives of the sons and daughters of this continent through the provision of sustainable generation of electricity power”