The cabinet on Monday approved a feasibility study to be conducted along Murchison fall to find out if a hydro-power station can to be constructed on it.
Addressing journalists at Uganda Media Centre on Tuesday, the Minister for Energy and Minerals Irene Muloni said that the feasibility study must be undertaken because that it’s the only scientific way to determine the impact of the project on the environment, tourism and ecology at the proposed site Murchison Falls.
“Government will ensure thorough supervision of the feasibility study so that its interests are taken into consideration including benchmarking where similar projects have been previously undertaken in ecologically sensitive areas, this study will include assessment of the technical, environmental, socio-cultural, economic and financial viability of the project,” she said.
According to Muloni, the Hydro power station is to be constructed on Uhuru falls but not Murchison Falls. The two falls are separate and adjacent to each other.
Coordinates for Murchison Falls are 2016’ 22.99 N 31041’0.02 E while Coordinates for Uhuru Falls ( where the proposed HPP site is to be constructed ) are 2016’ 42.6 N 31041’08.8 E.
However, according to Amos Murungi an environmentalist, since the two falls pour in the same place, the speed of water will be affected.
“When one says that a dam is going to be constructed at Uhuru, not Murchison you wonder because you cannot construct at one of the falls and the other remains unaffected,the two are so close. Government is fooling Ugandans,” he said.
Murungi added that the construction of the dam on Uhuru falls will affect Murchison falls and this will be a big blow to the country’s tourism industry since it will limit the number of tourist arrivals to Murchison falls national park because the falls are the major attraction in the park.
Accordingly, since Uhuru falls are only powerful to run the turbines during the rainy season yet power generation is throughout the year, some water from Murchison falsl will be diverted.
Muloni in defence from her twitter post said Much as Civil Society Organisations are against the scientific study on Uhuru because of its proximity and location in the Murchison National Park, no danger will affect the beauty of the falls especially the Murchison falls which are 500 meters away from Uhuru falls.
According to the minister, the construction of a power dam at Murchison Falls will generate 2,550 MW of electricity which increase the reliability of power supply to the country hence enhancing economic development.
She also said that the government will ensure thorough supervision of the feasibility study that its interests are taken into consideration including benchmarking where similar projects have been previously undertaken in ecologically sensitive areas.
“Consideration of the environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of a proposed project on the existing power and eco-system and also undertaking consultations among the various stakeholders. The demand for power is growing at about 10 per cent per annum implying continuous development of renewable energy sources including hydro which is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy, that is why we need more power sources,” she said.
Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in June watered down the proposal urging that there are many options for the required development other than destroying Uganda’s most spectacular tourists’ attraction.
“The Murchison Falls is the major attraction to tourists visiting the Murchison Falls National Park where they experience; a boat trip to the bottom of the falls, a hike from the bottom to the top of the falls, the top of the falls most rewarding views,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Ephraim Kamuntu has also assured Ugandans and Non-Government Organisation interested in tourism that conservation of flora and fauna is not a choice for anyone but it is a command from the Constitution.
“The decision of cabinet after a long debate has, nothing doing unless this feasibility study shows you can have a hydropower station without disrupting the conservation nature of the falls. And I’m sure anyone who is scientific you must have evidence-based policy decision and it must come out of the scientific study. We have a demand for power supply and to maintain the green beauty of our country,” said Kamuntu.
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