Tourists visit the Murchison Falls, a waterfall between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert on the White Nile River in Uganda. Picture: 123RF/OLEG ZNAMENSKIY
Tourists visit the Murchison Falls, a waterfall between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert on the White Nile River in Uganda. Picture: 123RF/OLEG ZNAMENSKIY

Kampala — A plan by SA’s Bonang Power and Energy to develop a 360MW power plant on Uganda’s River Nile has met resistance from critics who say the project will destroy the popular tourist attraction of Murchison Falls.

Located on the Nile between the Ugandan lakes Kyoga and Albert, the Murchison Falls also lend their name to a 3,900km² national park, one of Uganda’s biggest, where visitors can view lions, hippos, elephants, buffalos and giraffes.

On July 7, Uganda’s state-run energy sector regulator the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) published a notice indicating that Bonang had applied for a permit for a feasibility study on a 360MW power project on Murchison Falls.

The announcement has since stoked outrage from private tourism operators, nature enthusiasts and even the government’s own wildlife protection agency.

ERA spokesperson Julius Wandera said a definitive decision on the project had not been taken and a review of the application would take public criticism into consideration.

“It’s just total madness that anybody would think of destroying such an iconic place,” Amos Wekesa, a Ugandan tour operator and one of the critics championing a public campaign against the project, said.

“It’s just unacceptable to even start discussing the destruction of the most powerful water falls in Uganda for the sake of 360MW.”

The government of President Yoweri Museveni has increased efforts to expand the country’s energy generating capacity to help fuel an industrialisation drive.

Earlier this year, a 183MW dam on the same river, built with a Chinese loan, was commissioned. Another with 600MW capacity, also China-financed, is due for commissioning later in 2019.

Authorities have also been courting private investors such as Bonang to help take up some of the projects so the government would not have to directly fund them, often requiring borrowing that is ballooning the country’s public debt.

Founded in 2014 by SA entrepreneur Ernest Moloi, Bonang specialises in renewable energy projects in Africa.

Bashir Hangi, a spokesperson for state-run Uganda Wildlife Authority, said the destruction of the waterfalls would take away the park’s cachet and ruin its beauty. 

Reuters