Uganda Tour Operators kick against planned construction of hydro dam over Murchison Waterfalls

The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) is asking the country's Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to halt a planned construction of hydropower dam over Murchison Falls, a leading visitor attraction in the East African country.

ERA announced on June 7, 2019 a notice of intended application for a license from Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited who are intending to construct a hydropower dam near the Murchison Falls in the country's Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts.

Tourism industry players have since expressed their disappointment with the move with AUTO being the latest to express their disquiet about the development. In a statement AUTO says, it condemns the construction of the hydropower stating it could have adverse implications for Uganda's tourism

Read full statement below

On behalf of the Board, Management and entire membership of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) we condemn the construction of this hydropower dam which would only further undermine the efforts by tour operators and other tourism stakeholders to market the country and attract visitors to Uganda, and such acts of wickedness disregard the fact that many tourists come to
Uganda, mainly for its nature. Murchison Waterfalls from the top all the way to the delta at its confluence with Lake Albert including Uhuru 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 Uganda is also signatory to.

His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda has numerous times mentioned that we have more electricity than we are consuming and surplus is increasing. This cannot be the time to trade-off a natural wonder of the world for an electricity dam. The tourism sector was earmarked by Government of Uganda 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 interest of Ugandans.

The Tourism Sector Annual Performance Report FY 2017-2018 shows that over the past 10 years, the tourist arrivals into Uganda have steadily increased from 850,000 in 2008 to over 1.4 million arrivals in 2017. In 2017, Tourism continued to be the leading foreign exchange earner to the Ugandan economy by generating USD 1,453 billion compared to USD 1,371 billion in 2016. The direct contribution of tourism in Uganda is measured in form of GDP contribution of 10% as well as the direct employment mainly for women and youth in hotels, tour companies, travel agencies, airlines and other passenger transportation services. It is also measured indirectly in terms of the different stakeholders who indirectly benefit from it from being positioned along its varied value chain. According to the statistical bulletin of the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Murchison Falls National Park received an increase of 10% over a period of 12 months, commanding up to 31.4% of all Uganda’s park visitations and leading all the 10 national parks in visitor numbers.

It is therefore to cause loss to Ugandan tourism business owners (tour operators, lodge owners and others) and many Ugandans who both directly and indirectly depend on the Murchison Falls for employment and their livelihood. It is also to deprive Ugandans today and in the future of the much needed government revenue, GDP contribution, job creation, and all other benefits that accrue from Sustainable Tourism Development.

Our prayers:
1. We request H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to publicly pronounce an immediate termination to
this damaging project.
2. We request Government of Uganda to launch a nationwide sensitisation on the importance of
conservation to the future of Uganda, starting with top officials in the public sector.
3. We request Government of Uganda to dedicate more finances towards to the conservation,
sustainable development and promotion of the country’s varied tourist attractions.
4. Since this matter has greatly stressed and caused a lot of anxiety among the tourism business
community, stakeholders and the youth employed therein, who are also pressurizing us to
hold peaceful demonstrations around the country; we will have no option but to proceed as
they demand, should we not hear from Government about our prayers within 2 weeks from
today.
We have also served the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) with an objection in light of the same.

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