Three months after vowing to scrap the project, the tourism ministry said, Uganda will approve a feasibility study into building a hydro power station near the awe-inspiring Murchison Falls.
The about-turn has infuriated tourism operators who fear the 360-megawatt project on the Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park could irreversibly scar one of East Africa’s natural wonders.
“Cabinet decided that there must be a feasibility study and that scientific study will form the basis on whether the proposed hydro power project should go on in Murchison Falls National Park or not,” the country’s state minister for tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda told AFP.
He said the study would establish whether it was “tourism or electricity generation that benefits the country more.”
Earlier this year Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Authority said that a South African firm, Bonang Power and Energy Pty (Ltd), had applied for a licence to build a hydro-electric dam at Uhuru Falls, upriver from Murchison.
The proposal witnessed an outcry and a spirited campaign by Uganda’s hoteliers, environmentalists, researchers and tour operators under the “Save Murchison Falls” banner.
Uganda’s economy is growing by more than six percent annually, with similar development forecast for 2020 in the landlocked nation of 42 million, according to the World Bank.
More than three-quarters of its installed energy capacity comes from hydropower, the International Hydropower Association says, but less than 15 percent of its inhabitants have access to electricity.