Bujagali Dam Rises Again in Uganda

National Association of Professional Environmentalists
Friday, December 16, 2005

The Bujagali Dam project is now being revived by the Ugandan government, in partnership with the Aga Khan’s Industrial Promotion Services, which recently signed a "power purchase agreement" on the project. This advisory, by the Ugandan NGO National Association of Professional Environmentalits, describes why this project should not go forward as is.

Uganda Over the Signing of the Recent Bujagali Power Purchase 

As you are already aware, the government of Uganda on 13th December this year again signed the Bujagali Dam project deal with a consortium led by Industrial Promotions Services (IPS) of Aga Khan. Just like in the case of the failed AES deal 6 years ago, the new project deal has been signed in total defiance of national standard procedures, which require that such a deal, which involves huge amounts of public financing should be presented to Parliament, thoroughly debated and either approved or disapproved. What government should have done before hurrying to sign the deal was to present it to Parliament for discussion in a transparent and accountable manner.

It is unfortunate that the parties to the said agreement say that the project will cost 500 million USD as opposed to the earlier estimates of 300m USD, and 400mUSD without explaining these fluctuations in cost and where the money would come from. What is also not clear is whether the funding would be from private or public sources. Our view is that if it is the public institutions such as World Bank, European investment Bank, African Development Bank or the workers savings with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), are used to fund the project, the Power Purchase Agreement should have been debated and approved by Parliament. However, since this did not happen, the project is illegitimate. Otherwise, the Bujagali project remains a bad project for Uganda for a number of serious problems, including the following:

  1. There is no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) yet for the new project. What is relied on is the old AES’s EIA which was done more than 10 years ago. That EIA had numerous problems that have never been resolved, and does not take into account changes to the environment (such as lower lake levels and increased erosion from deforestation) that have occurred since then.

  2. The issues of affordability of electricity from the project, the cost of the dam and even its viability remain unresolved as pointed out by the Inspection Panel of the World Bank in 2002 when the project was investigated.

  3. The issue of the hydrology of Lake Victoria and River Nile, which have far-reaching implications on further damming of the Nile, has not been addressed in this revived project.

  4. The dam safety issues in relation to the cracking of the Owen Falls dam concrete and possible collapse of the bridge, which have big implications on the survival of Bujagali dam, are also being ignored.

  5. The tourism, cultural and spiritual significance of the Bujagali falls also continue to be ignored in favour of a dam.

  6. The consultation process continues to ignore key stakeholders such as the Basoga clans, the cultural and spiritual leaders, local leaders, NGOs, Tourism operators and, land owners (such as Sudhir Ruparella who intends to set up a Tourist Hotel at Bujagali falls).

  7. There is no plan in place to deal with/resolve resettlement problems and issues for resettled communities, including security of land ownership, development and livelihoods, health and education needs, compensation, etc.

  8. There is no Environmental Impact Assessment for the transmission line to distribute electricity from the source to the central grid. This issue has always raised a lot of concerns in the project process but it continues to be ignored.

Way Forward

  1. The Bujagali project must be put on hold until the outstanding issues are resolved. Short of this, the project does not meet the standards needed to attract public funding. It cannot be the project Uganda needs to solve its energy crisis if it only serves the political interests of the times.

  2. In the meantime, government should pursue expeditiously the implementation of Karuma project while at the same time allocating sufficient commitment to developing alternative energy sources such as solar, geothermal, biogas, cogeneration and small hydros.

  3. We urge government and the project developer to meet the conditions of civil society organizations as stipulated in the attached document.



Muramuzi Frank
Executive Director