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EU, environmentalists demand Govt position on Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The European Union delegation to Uganda and a section of environmentalists have asked for the government position regarding plans to have a hydro-power dam constructed on Murchison Falls.

The EU ambassadors led by the Head of Delegation Attilio Pacifici have since Monday been on a four-day mission in Western and Northern Uganda to assess and discuss environmental conservation matters in the country.

During their meeting with ‘Save Murchison Falls’ team and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials at Chobe Safari Lodge,  the EU delegation noted that there is a need for a position from government.

In October 2019, President Yoweri Museveni, amidst resistance from environmentalists and sections of the public directed that a feasibility study be conducted to fully understand the site, the impact on the environment, ecology and tourism.

However, in September 2020, Parliament approved a report by the Natural Resource Committee rejecting a government plan to conduct a feasibility study, a precursor for construction of a 360 MW hydropower dam on Murchison Falls. MPs then said that the project would destroy the protected area which is one of the country’s leading tourist attractions.

The committee chaired by Kiboga East MP Dr Keefa Kiwanuka said that contrary to claims by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Murchison Falls and Uhuru Falls are dependent on each other and that any attempt to tamper with any would automatically affect the other.

MPs argued that the investment in accommodation facilities within the park worth US Dollars 50 million and over 700 jobs offered should inspire the government to preserve the falls.

“Although Murchison Falls have a big maximum power of 555 MW, the environmental conditions are bad as species might be affected and Murchison Falls National Park will be affected,” read part of the committee report.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga then said that the company, Bonang Power and Energy Pty Limited which wanted to establish the dam did not have an address in Uganda and that the position of Parliament was to stand with Ugandans.

But the government is yet to come out with a way forward following the Parliament decision.

Matthia Schauer, the Germany Ambassador warned that if conservation of the falls is ignored, the country will pay a very high economic price.

Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Italian Ambassador also said that there is need for a balance between the country development and conservation.

Solomon Adim, the Programme Coordinator Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) said that the government was hard to trust regarding the conservation of Murchison falls.

He said that there was a need for government to come out clearly on the issue of Murchison falls saying that statements from leaders that plans to construct a dam at the falls had collapsed should not be a political gimmick.

Edison Nuwamanya, the chief warden Murchison Falls conservation area said that any move to destruct the falls will cut down an average 100,000 tourists who visit the place and that the contribution of the tourism sector to the community livelihoods under the revenue sharing project will reduce.

The Minister for Tourism, Tom Butime said that government would pronounce itself on the matter.

Murchison Falls National Park is the most visited park in the country and it offers experiences such as game drives, nature walks, boat rides and others. In 2018 alone, it accounted for 31 percent of all visitors to national parks.

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