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Over 2,500 sign petition to block building of power dam at Murchison Falls

A scenic view of the Murchison Falls. Conservationists have signed a petition barring President Museveni’s move to set up a hydro-power dam in the catchment area. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Pressure on government to block the planned construction of a power dam near Murchison Falls,l has been boosted after 2,533 people signed an online petition opposing the move.

The power dam, activists argue, could see the erosion of the falls, a key tourist attraction.

The petition had been started by Amos Murungi, an environmentalist after the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) called for public views on the planned feasibility study of the area by a South African firm that would eventually construct the power dam.

Mr Murungi had sought 2,500 petitioners, meaning he has overshot his target. Tourism enthusiasts took to social media on Sunday to ask the government to stop the idea altogether. ERA said in a statement on Sunday posted on its Facebook account: “We wish to clarify to our stakeholders about this notice. ERA has not issued a license for the establishment of the power plant at Murchison Falls but received an application for a permit to conduct feasibility studies for a proposed plant near the falls,” ERA said.

ERA’s advert said the dam will be constructed near Murchison Falls in Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts. It went on to state the exact area by geographical coordinates as between ‘Longitude 2º16’42.6” N and Latitude 31º41’08.8”E.’ A google map search of the advertised coordinates reveals that the dam will be constructed at the Murchison Falls on Victoria Nile – a tributary of the R.Nile.

The firm that wants to do a feasibility study and eventually construct a power dam is Bonang Power Limited from South Africa. On its website, it says Uganda “seeks to build new hydropower projects at Ayago, Uhuru, Kiba and Murchison Falls and will generate 2,550 MW of electricity…. leading to a more reliable power supply and a key factor of economic development.”

Murchison Falls is situated in the Murchison Falls national park in the northern part of the Albertine Rift Valley. It is well known to be one of Uganda’s ancient conservation areas. The park covers an area of about 3,893km2 and it is known to be one of Uganda’s well-protected area.

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