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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Controversial dam divides Ugandans
Bujagali dam (Image: Bujagali Energy Limited)

By Sarah Grainger
BBC, Kampala

Everest Kayondo runs a travel agency in central Kampala.

Like many business people he is frustrated with the unreliability of power supply in Uganda.

UGANDA'S POWER SUPPLY
Map
About 5% of Ugandan homes have access to electricity
Hydroelectric power supplies 99% of Uganda's electricity
Nalubaale dam (originally Owen Falls dam): built 1959; capacity 180MW
Kiira dam: built 1999; current capacity 120MW; to be extended up to 200MW
Bujagali dam: estimated completion 2011; capacity 250MW

"It used to be almost 50-50. If we worked six days there would only be power on three of them. Now it's a little better, maybe four with and two without," he says.

Currently the country's electricity is supplied by two dams, Nalubaale and Kiira, which lie almost at the mouth of the River Nile.

Between them they were designed to supply 380 megawatts of power.

But they rely on the flow of water from Lake Victoria and as the levels of the lake have been dropping, they only manage to produce 120 megawatts.

Power cuts and blackouts have become a regular occurrence across Uganda.

The government's answer to the power problems lies 8km downstream at the site of the Bujagali Hydro Power Project, which the World Bank has decided to back.

It is estimated that this third dam will cost $750m (375m) to construct.

But developers Bujagali Energy Limited say that it will ensure power cuts are a thing of the past.

Jimmy Kiberu from the company says Ugandans will also see a big change in the size of their electricity bills once the Bujagali dam is up and running.

"We expect to generate at rates of around 6 cents per unit of electricity, much lower than the current rates of around 25 cents, even though they are heavily subsidised," he says.

Environment

But the falling levels in Lake Victoria are a major environmental concern.

Canoeing
The way the river is used may change forever

When the Nalubaale and Kiira dams were built, Uganda agreed to release only a certain amount of water from the lake to feed the power stations.

It shares Lake Victoria and the Nile River with a number of other countries. But that agreed amount has been exceeded, as Uganda tried to produce more electricity. Bujagali Energy Limited says a third dam will not affect the lake water levels.

As it lies downstream from the current two dams, it will be reusing the water that they have already released.

Environmentalists have other worries.

"The flooding will change all the characteristics of the water body here and it will disrupt the whole eco-system," says Henry Bazira, a researcher with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists.

"The micro-climate will change and we don't know what the impact of that will be."

Promises

Many people will have to adapt so that this project can go ahead.

Margaret
Margaret sees the dam as an opportunity

Already 89 families have been moved from their homes to make way for the dam and there are mixed feelings about how that has been done.

"I was very happy when I was told that I would be given a new house in exchange for the old one. I too want Uganda to have more electricity," says Margaret Bulage, a 63-year-old mother of 10.

But Lukia Kawuma is not so happy.

"We were promised a new school and a health centre, but they have not yet given us these things. We want the dam to go ahead, but we need to be given the things they promised us."

The white water rafting companies are also going to experience a big change.

Frazer Small, the owner of Nile River Explorers, says the most exciting Grade 5 rapids will disappear under the water, when part of the valley upstream of the dam is flooded.

But his company has plans to diversify their business, rafting the rapids downstream of the dam and coming up with ways of using the flooded valley for other water sports.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Uganda
13 Apr 07 |  Country profiles

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