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Bujagali Hydro-Electric plant Under Construction

New power lines threaten tourism business in Uganda

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Nov 04, 2009

Information has been received, not from the owners but from some of their business associates and friends also known to this reporter, that the horse-riding business along the upper Nile valley is now under severe threat, as the new power transmission lines run right across their extensive property on the shores of the river. The company may have to relocate their stables, residence, and office at their own expense to another part of the property, as the electricity transmission company has apparently refused to even discuss any level of compensation.

This situation belies earlier soothing comments made by people in authority, when the final agreements for Bujagali were discussed with stakeholders and then signed some years back, that the power lines would not run directly along the river valley, but would be set back some distance, to permit a tourism and leisure hub to develop from the new Bujagali hydro-electric plant now under construction towards the present bridge across the river on top of the Owen Falls dam.

It has been alleged by affected parties that the new transmission line will be an eyesore from the other side of the river, where again major tourism businesses have been established in particular around the Bujagali Falls area, which would, if found correct, not be very conducive to present an ecofriendly picture, as a polluted view for many visitors almost equates with other more common pollution.

It is also understood from those acquaintances that the owners of the horse-riding business, when advocating for the transmission line to be moved further back, where crudely bullied into silence, which again, if found true, would be a very negative example of corporate irresponsibility of the highest order. Allegations towards this affect indicate that the power transmission company at no time honestly and seriously engaged in talks and discussions, allegedly brushed aside all efforts to introduce reason into the debate, and brusquely brushed aside a settlement in favor of brute enforcement.

The same company earlier in the week also lamented the fact that materials for the new line were constantly being stolen, probably a pointer towards the level of disaffection of the many people of the area who now must make way for the new line, which – if honest efforts would have been made - could have run along the main road towards the present Jinja dam, leaving the main area along the river open to develop weekend and holiday homes, and hospitality and adventure businesses, none of which can now do anything much along that stretch of river due to the high voltage lines running overhead and the adverse impact on anyone wanting to live, leave alone invest, near such visual impairments, leave alone the fallout on health for anyone living underneath or very nearby such high-voltage lines.

It is clear though, that while the line is absolutely necessary to connect Bujagali to the national grid and feed the nation with much needed extra electricity, a degree of flexibility and honest engagement by the power transmission company would have gone a long way to mitigate what is now becoming a PR nightmare for them, while most likely wrecking any chances of developing a leisure hub along this stretch of the river for good. What a wasted opportunity so as to save a few bucks!

New power lines threaten tourism business in Uganda
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