Uganda’s Cabinet has halted the proposed construction of the 360 megawatts power project on Uhuru falls that is few meters from the Murchison Falls.
The Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Minister, Professor, Ephraim Kamuntu disclosed the cabinet decision at the weekly cabinet briefing at government owned Uganda Media Centre.
The decision comes months after environmental activists launched the save Murchison falls campaign, which brought together political leaders, hoteliers, environmentalists and tour operators.
It came after the Electricity Regulatory Authority-ERA announced that a South African firm, Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Limited had applied for a license to construct a hydro power dam on Uhuru falls.
The falls came into existence in 1962 when Uganda received heavy rainfall forcing part of Murchison Falls to create a tributary that formed the second falls, named Uhuru.
There is public fear that the establishment of the power plant would affect the waterfalls between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert on the White Nile.
Kamuntu says he couldn’t respond to the public concerns then, because he has a platform in cabinet from where he could make his submissions.
According to Kamuntu, his Ministry presented a report to cabinet to reconsider the project because of the effects it would bring to the tourism industry.
He disclosed that from the Ministry’s assessment, the plant would affect the scenery, ecosystem and hence affect tourism attraction to the area.
According to Kamuntu, Murchison falls attracts over 100,000 tourists annually. Last year, Uganda collected Shillings 12 billion from tourism at Murchison falls alone.
It is also projected that in five to 10 years to come, the falls would earn Uganda about Shillings 72 billion.
Kamuntu says that such revenue would be risked by establishment of a power plant in the area, adding that the project could be established elsewhere not to compromise tourism earnings.
Cecilia Menya, an Engineer with the Energy Ministry says when the project attracted public attention, they were still conducting a study to establish how the plant could be constructed there.
She says there are different ways such a plant could be set up including installing all equipment under water without affecting the falls.
Manya however says that a comprehensive study would inform how to construct a plant in such an area but they were not given an opportunity.