Bujagali Falls, The Nile, Uganda

Bujagali Dam, Uganda

The government of Uganda, with help from the World Bank and African Development Bank, is constructing a 200-megawatt dam near Bujagali Falls on the Nile, just downstream from two other large dams. The costly dam’s power will not meet the energy needs of most Ugandans, will drown a treasured waterfall, and could harm Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake.

By drowning Bujagali Falls – a spectacular series of cascading rapids which Ugandans consider a national treasure – the dam will submerge a place with great cultural and spiritual importance for the Busoga people. The project will also directly affect the livelihoods of about 6,800 people, impact fisheries, and submerge highly productive agricultural land and islands of high biodiversity. Some villagers have already been resettled for the project, with poor results.

Local environmentalists say the costly dam will harm Uganda’s chances to pursue more sustainable energy alternatives, and point out that this project will do nothing to help the 95% of Uganda’s population who are not connected to the national grid. NGOs are pressing for the development of renewable energy sources, a sustainable fuelwood program, and improved efficiency to reduce the very high levels of waste in the existing system. The dam project's costs have skyrocketed, and the dam is now expected to cost US$860 million, plus another $74.7 million for transmission lines.

Groups are also concerned about the dam’s impact on the health of Lake Victoria, which supports millions of people and extensive biodiversity. The lake, has suffered a dramatic drop in its water level in large part because two existing dams released more water than would naturally have flowed out. As a result, the lake level dropped to record lows in recent years, causing energy shortages and economic disruption (nearly all of Uganda's electricity comes from the two existing dams). Although Uganda needs more energy, it does not need another economically disastrous dam. The Bujagali project could be a costly mistake if river flows prove insufficient to support its turbines – a situation that could result from climate change.

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