The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has asked the Government to brief Parliament on the status of Murchison Falls, after reports that Cabinet had okayed a feasibility study, for a possible giveaway of the falls for construction of a power dam.
Mid-this year, power regulator, theElectricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), announced that they had received an application from Bonang Power Energy Ltd, a South African energy firm, to build a hydropower dam at Murchison Falls sparking outrage from the public, especially environmental activists.
The advert caused an uproar, with conservationists saying if constructed, it would be a devastating blow to tourism, as the falls that are located within the park are one of the most visited areas in the park.
The Government, which was then non- committal on the matter, dismissed the reports saying there was no such plan for the construction of a dam on the falls. However,inatwistofevents,theGovernment last week announced that Cabinet had okayed a feasibility study on the falls, for the construction of a 360MW plant at the site of Murchison Falls.
“Last week, I heard that Cabinet okayed a South African energy firm Bonang Power Energy to do a feasibility study, yet the people of Uganda had urged the Government not to interfere with Murchison Falls. What are you on? Why haven’t you said anything about this? Why is the Government provoking the people of Uganda? I want to know,” Kadaga said.
She demanded that the Government briefs the Parliament on the matter before a feasibility study is done.
In response, David Bahati the state minister for finance in charge of planning confirmed. “We discussed the matter in Cabinet and we are making studies. No action has been taken,” he said.
However, Kadaga insisted that the energy minister, Irene Muloni briefs the House on the matter, as soon as possible for Parliament’s recommendations on the issues. Drawing Bahati’s attention to the Constitution in regard to the protection of natural resources, Kadaga said:
“Ugandans have said, ‘We do not want anything there.’ So, what are you studying? The energy minister made the statement to Cabinet and the media so what about this House? This is urgent the country needs to know the fate of Murchison Falls.”
It is at this point that Bahati assured the House that the minister would brief Parliament today, regarding the matter. When the issue of the construction of the hydropower dam at the falls first came up in June, Ugandans opposed the move and signed an online petition to stop the planned construction of the power dam near Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls is situated in the Murchison Falls National Park in the northern part of the Albertine Rift Valley.
Sh20b landslide funds
Meanwhile, MPs from the Bugisu sub- region took the floor to demand that the Government releases sh20b recently approved by Parliament, to help in the relocation plan of people affected by landslides in Sironko and Bududa.
The MPs noted that due to landslides, many people have run to schools and places of worship for refuge. They want the finance ministry to release the sh20b approved by Parliament for emergency response in the affected areas.
“The Government needs to evacuate these people. Most of them are taking shelter in schools now that students are on holiday and some are living with relatives, who are also overwhelmed by the numbers,” John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya County) said.
About two weeks ago, Parliament approved sh20b, to help address emergencies and disasters occasioned by heavy rains across the country.