Kampala, Uganda – A section of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have jointly written to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni demanding him to declare that no dam is constructed at Murchison Falls.
The letter dated 28th November is signed by Dickens Kamugisha, the Executive Director of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).
The other eighteen CSOs members who signed include; Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), Citizens Concern Africa (CICOA), Action Coalition on Climate Change (ACCC), Africa Initiative on Food Security and Environment, Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, Environment Conservation Trust of Uganda and others.
The Observer recently reported that there was a recent Cabinet node to the construction of a power dam on the falls. It was reported that the Minister of State Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi said that their stand as the ministry of Tourism was that, there was no need to even carry out a feasibility study to show whether government benefits more from tourism or electricity that will be produced from the dam.
“Cabinet decided that there should be a feasibility study. But our position is clear, we shouldn’t have a dam on the falls because that’s likely to affect tourism. We agreed to have a scientific study and any decision on whether to build a dam or not should be based on a scientific study,” Kiwanda reportedly said.
Early this year, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) in a Newspaper advert called for bids to build a dam on Murchison Falls. The advert attracted an uproar from sections of the public with conservationists saying if constructed, it was going to deal a devastating blow to tourism.
Now in their joint letter to President Museveni, CSOs have appealed to him to unequivocally declare that the government will never build a dam at Murchison Falls and Uhuru falls or any other place in Murchison falls National Park.
“We request you to make this declaration of commitment as a gift to Ugandans for 2019. This will end fear among Ugandans and increase trust in your leadership,” reads part of the letter.
They also want the President to cancel any contract with Bonang or any other company regarding the feasibility study. They request that funds meant for the dam should instead be invested into clean renewable energy.
“We are a consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working with ordinary Ugandans across the country. Our work gives us the privilege and honour to interact with ordinary citizens on a day to day basis. As such, we often come face to face with the reality of the impacts of degraded ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, rivers, lakes, national parks, game reserves and others. Degrading of the above ecosystems has left thousands of communities in untold suffering,” further reads the letter.
They note that the Tourism sector earned 1.6 billion for the country in 2018/2019 financial year and that the Murchison falls remain one of the most iconic tourist attractions and that it is the reason why the falls landscape has been attracting some if the highest numbers if tourists in the country.
The CSOs also remind the President that Uganda is signatory to many international conservation agreements and conventions including the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the Social Development Goals (SDGs) and others. They say that these emphasize conservation by avoiding activities that are harmful to biodiversity such as dams and any other industrial or infrastructural development in protected areas.
Meanwhile, the CSOs commend Museveni for his commitment to promoting and safeguarding the critical biodiversity and natural heritage across the country citing the recent directives stopping those degrading wetlands, lakes and river banks, forests and others.
They however appeal to him to go a step further to ensure that the directives and conservation laws are enforced and complied with.