Early this year, the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) published a notice in local newspapers indicating that it had received an application from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited for the construction of a power dam at the falls.
“ERA has under section 29 of the Electricity Act 1999 received a notice of intended application of a license from Bonang Power and Energy(Pty) Limited for the generation and sale of electricity from a hydropower plant proposed to be established near Murchison falls in Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts,” read the notice published in the government-owned New Vision.
The notice drew an uproar from the public with conservationists, saying the project would deal a devastating blow to tourism. Now, Bunyoro kingdom has thrown its weight behind those opposed to the project.
Bunyoro kingdom prime minister, Andrew Byakutaga, says they strongly condemn the move, adding that the kingdom will not at any point allow government to establish a power dam at the falls.
Byakutaga says Murchison falls is a strong heritage site for the Bunyoro kingdom, adding that any development aimed at its destruction will not be tolerated because the falls remain a strong tourism attraction site in the kingdom. According to Byakutaga, the kingdom has already written to the ERA warning the agency not to make many any attempts to establish a power dam on Murchison.
Apollo Rwamparo, the first deputy prime minister and minister of Tourism and Antiquities in Bunyoro Kitara kingdom, says it is "rude" and "unacceptable" for government to give away Murchison falls for the construction of a power station yet it is a bio-cultural site.
He wants government through the Energy ministry, to cancel any engagements with Bonang or any other company regarding the feasibility study. Rwamparo says activities that are harmful to biodiversity such as dams in protected areas should be stopped and condemned in the strongest terms.
He says tourism is one of the most sustainable industries, which feed the country’s economy, even with very little government effort, interest and investment. The tourism sector alone earned the country Shs 1.6 trillion in the 2018/2019 financial year and Murchison falls remain one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) is managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. It is in north-western Uganda, spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma falls. The park straddles the districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi.