KAMPALA – Cabinet has blocked the planned construction of a power project on Murchison Falls following public outcry of its impact on the environment.
Speaking at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on Tuesday, the Tourism Minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, said his Ministry advised cabinet against the project because of the effects it would bring to the tourism industry.
Prof Kamuntu said last year, Uganda collected Shillings 12 billion from tourism at Murchison falls alone and that putting a power project there could compromise tourism earnings.
The decision comes months after environmental activists launched the save Murchison falls campaign, which brought together political leaders, hoteliers, environmentalists and tour operators.
The Electricity Regulatory Authority-ERA had earlier announced that a South African firm, Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited, had applied for a license to construct a hydropower dam on the falls.
The falls came into existence in 1962 when Uganda received heavy rainfall forcing part of Murchison Falls to create a tributary that formed the second falls, named Uhuru.
There is public fear that the establishment of the power plant would affect the waterfalls between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert on the White Nile.
Ms Cecilia Menya, an Engineer with the Energy Ministry, says when the project attracted public attention, they were still conducting a study to establish how the plant could be constructed there.
She said there are different ways such a plant could be set up including installing all equipment underwater without affecting the falls.
Manya, however, says that a comprehensive study would inform how to construct a plant in such an area but they were not given an opportunity.
Tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner, having raked in $1.37bn last year. The only sector that comes close is diaspora remittances when Ugandans abroad sent in $1.2bn last year. Up to 1.4 million people entered Uganda in 2018. Losing falls is familiar to Ugandans after the construction of Bujagali hydro-power in Jinja saw the disappearance of the Nile Falls in Jinja.