AMURU – Ugandans have on June 9 started an online “Save Murchison Falls National Park” petition to President Museveni and concerned authorities over the proposed hydropower dam construction in the Murchison Falls National Park area.
The petitioners led by the Operations Officer Nungi Safaris Uganda Amos Murungi are soliciting for 5,000 signatures and by June 10 afternoon, the activists already had over 3,900 signatures and by looking at the site, more are still pouring in.
The campaign encourages people to share their pictures online while at Murchison falls as a way of exhibiting the beauty of the Murchison Falls.
Mr. Murungi says tourism is his life. “I love my country Uganda, I think it’s very beautiful and I have great belief in its natural richness.”
He explained how unthinkable it is for government to permit such proposal which will definitely lead to the destruction of the thunderous falls.
“We as Environmentalists and Tourism lovers have decided to use all our resources and power to save this national park from destructions,” he said.
Mr. Murungi believes tourism is the most sustainable industry which feeds the country’s economy yet the government has less effort, interest, investment and little prioritization toward the tourism sector.
“We are reaping big in the form of government revenue through taxes, GDP figures, Foreign Exchange, job creation,” he said.
Ms. Lilly Ajarova, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Chief Executive Officer equated the proposal to “madness” saying there are options for the required development.
Who in their right mind would want the destruction of Murchison Falls?” she noted
Ms. Ajarova noted that Murchison falls is an iconic feature that is spectacular and none like it elsewhere.
“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 added.
The UTB CEO regarded Murchison Falls with an eco-system that has both endemic and endangered species.
She said that “if destroyed will not only affect the nation but the global community with species extinction, climatic change, among others.”
Mr. Jonathan Benaiah, the spokesperson for the Association of Ugandan Tours Operators said the move should be opposed by every sane Ugandan.
In his open letter to the President Benaiah noted that if the petition is not honoured, “I and the many Ugandans with me will proceed with a peaceful demonstration in light of the same, dubbed ‘Save Murchison Falls, togikwatako (do not touch it).”
“Why are we so much after short quick gains at the compromise of natural resources which other nations can only wish they had? Crazy people to say the least,” Benaiah said.
“This country’s shallow-minded priorities; I still do not get. Maybe they should go ahead and compensate tourism investors rather than singing praising about the tourism sector being a leader in forex earnings, but only turning around to bring an axe to its neck thereafter.”
Mr. Amos Wekesa who describes the falls as the best tourist attractions in Uganda regarded this as “nonsense.”
“We want to destroy every forest, every swamp; every waterfall in our lifetime? Are we the last generation,” Wekesa wondered.
“What are we conserving for the next generation? Imagine if our ancestors had destroyed everything,” he added.
President Museveni in State of Nation address highlighted that Uganda, for the first time in history, has Surplus electricity and Wekesa adds that this is more reason why such hydropower project is unnecessary.
These lashes come after Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), In a notice dated June 7, acknowledged receipt of notice of intended application for a license from Bonang Power and Energy (PTY) Ltd.
The South African based company intends to establish a hydropower plant in areas of Kiryandogo and Nwoya near the falls.
The company plans on generating and selling electricity.
ERA noted that the energy firm intends to undertake detailed feasibility studies and other activities which will lead to the development of the power project.
“The generated power will be sold to the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited and fed into the National Grid,” the ERA notice read.
The regulator added that the project is located within the coordinates 2•16’42.6″N, 31•41’08.8″E which is the same location of waterfalls.
“The proposed installed capacity of the project is 360MW,” ERA noted.
In the same notice, the Authority has given 30 days to directly affected parties to make comments and lodge objections (if any) in respect to the notice.
“Directly affected parties and affected parties and affected public agencies are invited to submit their comments in respect to the application or notice in writing to the ERA address,” the authority noted.
This follows months after the government granted to an Indian-owned Sugar Company to set up a sugarcane plantation part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve which is home to wild Chimpanzees and many other rare wildlife species. Murchison Falls was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926.
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
This is the largest National Park in Uganda – covering 3,480 square km and one of the most spectacular in Africa.