Your Excellency, I represent several Ugandans who love this country, who think it’s beautiful and those who have great belief in its richness. I also represent tourists who still wish to see the wonder of the world that is Murchison Falls National Park.
I also represent tourism businessmen who invest in safari vehicles, hotels, and lodges; those who devotedly toil to attract visitors to this country, attract foreign exchange, pay their taxes to Government, and create jobs and benefits for very many Ugandans directly and Indirectly.
Mr. President, I pray my words will be few.
On Friday 7th June 2019 we were smacked with shocking news, a Government advert in the papers about a company (whose origin we are yet to identify) was bidding for a license to carry out a feasibility study in the Murchison Falls National Park at the mighty falls with definite plans of constructing a hydropower dam over this Ramsar site.
The advert by the Electricity Regulation Authority (ERA), a Statutory Body established in accordance with the Electricity Act, 1999 to regulate the Generation, Transmission, Distribution, Sale, Export, and Import of Electrical Energy in Uganda, appeared in the national newspaper and it read in part:
“ERA has under section 29 of the Electricity Act 1999 received a notice of intended application of a licence 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.”
Although ERA has since come out to try to clarify through their Facebook and Twitter that the application for a permit to conduct feasibility studies is for a proposed plant near the falls, the coordinates in the Ad (2°16’42.6″N, 31°41’08.8″E) point to the very spot that is Murchison Waterfalls.
Mr. President this comes on the background of several other waterfalls and rapids like Bujagali that have been destroyed due to the construction of dams in the country. Despite statements by your good self that “we have more electricity than we are consuming and the surplus is increasing”, still more dams are being built.
This cannot be the time to trade a natural wonder of the world for an electricity dam.
About Murchison Falls National Park
Your Excellency, I wish to remind you that Murchison Falls National Park is an exceptional place to see wildlife and to enjoy a trip along the Nile River, especially to see the powerful Murchison Falls up close, a simply unforgettable experience that attracts so many tourists to visit Uganda. I believe you enjoyed your stay recently during your meeting at Chobe Safari Lodge earlier this year. Those photos were stunning, to say the least.
The falls also known as Kabalega, are believed to be the strongest in the world and without doubt the most fierce point on the world’s longest river.
Mr. Museveni, Murchison Falls is a Ramsar site, designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975 which you know very well, we are also a signatory to.
Just the other day we were highlighting the need to conserve forests, the case of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (home to wild Chimpanzees and many other rare wildlife species) which had been granted to an Indian-owned Sugar Company to set up a sugarcane plantation. While we are still fighting that battle, here is yet another heart attack.
Your Excellency, I am extremely concerned about how your Government continues to handout our sensitive natural resources, destroying our waterfalls in the name of industrialization. We will surely be looked at by our grandchildren like a very selfish generation. We will be judged with cruelty for the malice we have inflicted on our God-given resources; without which we seize to be the Pearl of Africa.
The people I represent demand the following:
1. That you, Your Excellency, publically pronounce yourself on this matter with immediate termination of this proposed damaging project.
2. That the Parliament of Uganda commissions an investigation into the said company applying for the license to set up a hydropower dam over a natural resource of national and international importance
3. That you task your officers to protect the integrity of Murchison Falls National Park inline with all the environmental laws and conventions.
4. That your Government launches a nationwide sensitization about the importance of conserving our natural resources, for the future of Uganda, starting with top officials in the public sector.
5. That through the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development, you dedicate more finances towards the conservation, sustainable development, and promotion of the country’s varied tourist attractions.
“Should this not be honored, I and the many Ugandans with me will proceed with a peaceful demonstration in light of the same, dubbed ‘Save Murchison Falls, TOGIKWATAKO!”
Mr. President, I will not go into the detail of how much the tourism sector contributes to our economy because you are the custodian of all this pleasing information. But one of my greatest beliefs, is that tourism is one of (if not) the most sustainable industries which feed our economy, even with very little government effort, interest and investment. We (as a country) are reaping big in the form of government revenue through taxes, GDP figures, HUGE Foreign Exchange, job creation; with very little prioritization. Imagine if we were to do it more deliberately.
Your Excellency, the tourism sector was earmarked by your Government as one of the five (5) key-growth sectors for the country’s economy in the National Development Plan II.
For the same Government to go against its word and destroy this sector which attracts the largest foreign exchange is to act selfishly, and out of the very interest of Ugandans that they set out to seek votes from.
Mr. Museveni allow me to end this letter by informing you that we are rallying all Ugandans, all local media, religious leaders, businessmen, parents and elders, friends from the academia and of course all tourism stakeholders to join in this battle to protect what can’t speak for itself.
Lastly, Mr. President, we are also using our networks to call upon the media where these so-called “investor-companies” originate from to tell our story to their governments about how their companies, like Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited, are coming here to destroy our heritage.