In the sitting yesterday, Parliamentary members demanded why the government couldn’t let go of a feasibility study for the construction of hydropower dam at Murchison, a place that is controversial especially dam the stakeholders.
The proposed dam is to be constructed at Uhuru Falls, and this is just 600meters away from Murchison Falls. The closeness of the two falls is the reason why stakeholders were worried and therefore rejected the project. The Government’s emphasis on it is what beats the member’s understanding.
Hon. Namayanja Florence went ahead to mention some of the stakeholders that rejected the project like: Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority and National Environment Management Authority. She asked, how can they be sure that they aren’t hiding in Uhuru Falls to land on Murchison Falls?
Mr. Simon D’Ujanga, the State Minister for Energy assured Parliament Committee on Natural Resources that the feasibility study is to guide the government whether to go ahead with the construction of the controversial or to let go of the project.
He also added that a memorandum of understanding was signed between the government of Uganda and a South African company in the names of Bonang Energy and Power Ltd on 12th/12/ 2017 to carry out the study. The South African Company then proceeded to apply for permission from the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to go ahead with the study as guidance for the proposed Uhuru Hydropower project development.
He also couldn’t avoid mentioning that there’s a high demand of power that is growing at a rate of 10% every year, and in such a case there needs to be a matching increase of energy sources that is hydropower since it’s among the cheapest. The government also has plans of constructing industrial in the different regions of the country and the completion of these parks would have absorbed a lot of energy and there will need of more to keep them running.
It was on this note that the chairperson of the committee- Dr. Keefa Kiwanuka inquired from the minister whether they were in full knowledge of the South African Company in question, and which the minister denied.
Dr. Kiwanuka said that Murchison Falls had the coordinates for a dam, how these shifted to now be on Uhuru Falls? No one knows. And the fact that the project is facing a lot of rejection from the stakeholders, left him wondering why the government is still considering the project.
The State Minister for Energy was requested to meet the committee next week but this time with technical teams from other government agencies and also with detailed information about the South African Company Bonang. Clarifications from the Minister that Murchison Falls won’t be touched weren’t convincing enough for Dr. Kiwanuka who thinks that water will shift from Murchison to Uhuru after the construction of the dam.
The ERA before granting permission looks in to impacts of the project on the economy, private and public rights, power, and impacts on the environment, eco-system, and culture.
Although on top of the 3 stakeholders who had already rejected the project, the cabinet too rejected however the President directed the cabinet to revise its decision and allow a feasibility study to be carried out. This was done in December last year.