Conservationists have come out to object to the plans by government through the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to give away part of River Kyambura in Rubirizi district for a hydro power project.
This follows a notice published in the newspapers by ERA notifying the public that they had received an application for a license to generate and sale electricity on River Kyambura from Rubirizi Energy EP (U) Limited.
ERA invited the affected parties and authorities to lodge their objections to the Project, among those that attended, included officials from the tourism industry who objected the move.
Led By Boniface Byamukama a conservationist and tour operator, the activists say that the proposed Hydro power plant will be established in a protected area (PA), since the Kyambura gorge is a wildlife reserve and part of the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area (QEPA) with a size of 157 km2.
The Kyambura Gorge is one of the most stunning features at the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area (QEPA), which was created during the rift Valley formation, it forms a unique belt of a tropical rain forest in the middle of the Savannah Grass lands.
Byamukama notes that because of the rich biodiversity and the fact that the endangered species live in Kyambura gorge, the PA is of international importance, and being classified as wildlife reserve, the area is legally protected by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Act.
He says that activities like Biodiversity conservation, Recreation, Scenic viewing, Scientific research, and any other compatible economic activity subject to the UWA act and after an environment impact assessment study has been conducted, are allowed to take place.
“Since River Kyambura is not only the Lifeline of the whole Eco system, but also forms a key migratory route for chimpanzees between QENP and Kasyoha- Kitomi, any development along the Kyambura Rver will disrupt the movement of Chimpanzees between Kyambura Gorge and Kasyiha-Kitomi and could result in increased human-wildlife conflicts such as chimpanzees will always avoid development area and instead pass-through community gardens,” Byamukama noted.
He says that government has to also consider the 20% revenues collected through the national park entrance fees, activity fees that is paid to the local governments.
He asked government to stop any ‘illegal’ business in Kyambura gorge since it’s a protected area, and think about using smart energy like solar energy among others.
Benedict Ntale from the Association for Conservation of Bugoma Forest, said that the Ugandan law has great protection and conservation guidelines in place, but the implementation and enforcement is still weak.
Ntale noted that the best example is the deforestation going on in Bugoma forest, an area which is protected by law.
Bugoma Forest is a central forest reserve currently, under the National Forestry and Tree Planning Act, 2003 b y Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 1998 with an area of 41,144 Ha and managed by NFA.
The forest is the third Chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda with an estimate of 500 chimpanzees and hosting the Unique species like the Africa Bush Elephants.
Ntale noted that Bugoma forest is also a key sanctuary with 221 bird species recorded, and a crucial migratory corridor for chimpanzees, elephants among others, which makes it necessary to avoid extinction.
He says that the connection n between the two matters is obvious since both are legally protected areas which are planned to be encroached or already encroached by ‘profit’ seeking companies.
Ntale says that the companies do not respect the high value of the rich ecosystems which one destroyed is hard and costly to rebuild.
“Considering the impact of tourism on countries economy, such matters have to be handled with priority, both forests are home to chimpanzees, apart from the rich biodiversity of the country, this is one of the competitive advantages Uganda has as a tourist destination towards the main competitors.” Ntale said.
He asked UWA to take over the management of Bugoma forest and announce it as a protected area under its authority.