Bujagali Being Revived: Read Civil Society Concerns

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Government of Uganda is reviving the construction of Bujagali dam, which up to now has been mired in controversies. The controversies, among others, include corruption, over–pricing of both the dam and electricity to be generated, questionable technical design, engineered hydrological data, inappropriate environmental impact assessment and lack of transparency and accountability.

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and other Civil Society organizations have, on several occasions, articulated these controversies. However, the project is being revived. This is a reflection that Government has not learnt anything from the previous experience from the project.

On 21st February 2005, government presented a new project design and what it called an updated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to a select group of stakeholders dominated by government officials. NAPE was one of the very few NGOs that were invited at short notice.

During the meeting, government voted to proceed with the project ignoring the controversies and flaws in the Bujagali hydropower project. This was vehemently contested by the Civil Society organizations present that proposed that a wider stakeholder consultation be made to discuss these bottlenecks prior to proceeding with Bujagali dam process. Unfortunately Government objected to this view.

It is against this background that Civil Society resolved to initiate wider stakeholder consultations on the new project design and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On 15th April, 2005 Civil Society organized a multi–stakeholder workshop at Hotel Equatoria in Kampala that attracted more than 80 participants including government, professional engineers, hydrologists, academicians, local leaders in the project area, representatives from the dam affected communities, members of parliament, cultural and spiritual leaders, the media and several NGOs.

The multi–stakeholder workshop reviewed the Bujagali dam project and consensus was that the prevailing controversies must be resolved before the project is approved.

At the end of the consultation the participants came up with the following statement:

We the undersigned participants at this consultative meeting held on this 15th day of April 2005 at Hotel Equatoria, Kampala on Bujagali dam process;

Appreciating Government’s efforts towards providing adequate electricity in the country;

Convinced that there is tremendous need for electricity for citizens, institutions and industry;

Aware that the proposed Bujagali dam is marred with numerous technical, environmental, social and economic flaws, among others; and

Realizing that government is determined to proceed with the dam building process without resolving outstanding issues and without involving Civil Society,

Do hereby state and demand as follows:

  1. That the ongoing process of selecting a developer of Bujagali dam and any other undertakings related to the developer be halted until the controversies and flaws in the project have been resolved. This will save the country further unnecessary costs should the project fail to go ahead because of unresolved controversies, flaws and issues;

  2. That it is the duty of government to ensure that Civil Society and other stakeholders participate fully in the Bujagali dam process and, therefore, should ensure that pertinent information on the project is availed to them; this will enable them to participate from the point of knowledge;

  3. That Government immediately organizes wider, and more participatory consultative meetings on Bujagali dam where local communities, Government and Civil Society would be given equal opportunity to present their positions on the project. Such meetings should not only be at national level but also at District level, specifically Jinja, Mukono, Kamuli and Iganga. Civil Society is ready to work in partnership with government to ensure that such participatory consultative meetings are successful;

  4. That government instead of promoting the problematic Bujagali hydropower project, should seriously and immediately consider developing hydro–electric power from other cost effective sites such as Ayago and Karuma and should explore and invest in alternative energy sources such as geothermal, solar, biogas, as well as smaller dams, but also government should take deliberate steps to develop the country’s abundant but dwindling fuel wood energy resources for the majority poor;

  5. That a thorough screening of hydropower contractors (engineering companies) is conducted to ensure that a professional and quality engineering company is appointed to carry out the work. Such company must have been registered in Uganda and issued with a work permit. In addition, qualified local engineers must be attached to the foreign company in consultation with and approval by the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers in order to ensure that the country builds local capacity in areas of dam development;

  6. That Government, World Bank and Acres International should give a proper account of the failure of the Owen Falls Extension dam to deliver the promised electricity and publicly accept total responsibility and provide compensation for the failure and the consequent decline in the water levels of Lake Victoria following the commissioning of that dam;

  7. That government should publicly declare the losses incurred by Uganda as a result of AES–Government Bujagali power deal before the project is revived;

  8. That the prospective developers and funding bodies halt further action on the project until the outstanding issues are resolved;

  9. That the Parliament of Uganda should be fully integrated and consulted in the Bujagali dam process if the project is to be legitimate; and

  10. That Civil Society is ready to work in partnership with government to see that the consultative meetings are successful and ensure that the pertinent issues are raised and resolved.

Civil Society wishes to assure the public that we are interested in the promotion of public participation, accountability and transparency as away of promoting the sustainable development of the energy sector in Uganda.

This statement has been circulated specifically to the following:

  • The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda

  • The Minister of Water Lands and Environment, Uganda

  • Department of Water Resources Development, Uganda

  • The Country Manager World Bank – Kampala

  • The Agha Khan Industrial Promotion Services (IPS)

  • The Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (IFC) Washington D.C.

  • The President of the World Bank, Washington D.C.

  • All members of the Parliament of Uganda

  • Karen Rasmussen, World Bank, Washington D.C.

  • The Executive Director – NEMA, Uganda

  • The World Bank Inspection Panel, Washington D.C.

  • President of Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers (UIPE)

  • Chairman, Uganda Association of Consulting Engineers (UACE)

83 participants at this workshop have signed this statement on 15th April 2005 at Hotel Equatoria Kampala Uganda.

For further information, please contact:

National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)
P.O. Box 29909
E–mail: nape@utlonline.co.ug

Lori Pottinger, International Rivers
E–mail: lori@internationalrivers.org'
Phone: +1 510–848–1155