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Uganda joins international body to manage hydropower dam risks

Launch of the Uganda National Committee on Large Dams (UCOLD).

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister on November 29, unveiled a committee dubbed Uganda National Committee on Large Dams (UCOLD) to deal with hydropower dam safety issues and curtail any calamities that may affect their operations.

The committee consist of Callist Tindimugaya, commissioner directorate of water resources management at the Ministry of Water and Environment as chairperson, Harrison E. Mutikanga, chief executive officer for Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited as the deputy vice chairperson, Fredrick Wasike, the manager dam safety at UEGCL as the secretary.

This development comes a few months after one of the country’s largest hydropower dams, Isimba (183MW) dam was temporarily shut down following a heavy flooding incident that affected its normal operations. The unveiling of the committee connects back to 2019 when Uganda was formally elected as the 101st member of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) at the ICOLD’s 87th annual general meeting and symposium held in Ottawa, Canada.

UCOLD secretariat is set up at UEGCL headquarters in Kampala headed by Dr. Mary Akurut and other members from the founding agencies. Operations are directed by committee members and guided by the UCOLD constitution.

Mutikanga said, the committee is established on principles of voluntarism, democratic centralization and selfsupport in terms of financial matters. He said, funding of the committee will be from various sources – membership fees, financial support from members, financial aid and others. Going forward, UCOLD will be expanded to include players from other government agencies, academia, private sector and more.

Experts say, dam safety emergencies arise from naturally occurring events like floods, accidents, deliberate destructive actions such as terrorism and cyber-attack. According to ICOLD data, the number of dam failures globally has been decreasing over time due to, among many other factors, knowledge dissemination through organizations like ICOLD which is why countrys like Uganda have to actively take part in its activities, said Ruth Nankabirwa, the minister of energy and mineral development during the unveiling of UCOLD event.


International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) is a nongovernmental organization founded in 1928. It comprises of national committees from 104 countries (approx. 10,000 members) and provides a forum for discussion and for the exchange of knowledge and experience.

It is widely described as a leader in setting standards and guidelines for safe, efficient, economical, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable construction and operation of dams. ICOLD accomplishes its objectives through its various national committees and regional clubs information dissemination and experience sharing through annual technical meetings and general assembly, triennial congresses, studies and research publications of proceedings, reports and technical bulletins.

It has 35 technical committees that address current technical issues related to the development and management of water resources including dam safety, operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of dams, concrete dams, embankment dams, environment, public safety around dams, climate change and hydraulics for dams.

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