Environmentalists have opposed government plans through the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to cede part of the Kyambura River in Rubirizi District for a hydropower project.
This follows a newspaper notice by ERA informing the public that they had received an application for a license to generate and sell electricity on the Kyambura River from Rubirizi Energy EP (U) Limited.
ERA has invited parties and affected authorities to file their objections to the project.
Led by Boniface Byamukama, an environmentalist and tour operator, the activists say the proposed hydroelectric plant will be established in a protected area (PA), since the Kyambura Gorge is a wildlife reserve and is part of the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area (QEPA ) with an area of 157 km2.
Kyambura Gorge is one of the most amazing features of the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area (QEPA), which was created during the formation of the Rift Valley, it forms a unique belt of tropical rainforest in the middle land of the savannah.
Byamukama notes that due to the rich biodiversity and the fact that endangered species live in the Kyambura Gorge, the PA is of international importance and, being classified as a wildlife reserve, the area is legally protected by the Law on the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
He says that activities such as biodiversity conservation, recreation, landscape observation, scientific research and any other compatible economic activity subject to UWA law and after an environmental impact assessment has been completed. been conducted, are allowed.
“Since the Kyambura River is not only the lifeline of the entire ecosystem, but also a key migratory route for chimpanzees between QENP and Kasyoha-Kitomi, any development along the Kyambura River will disrupt the movement of chimpanzees between Kyambura Gorge and Kasyiha-Kitomi and could lead to increased human-wildlife conflict, as chimpanzees will always avoid development areas and instead pass through community gardens, ”Byamukama noted.
He says the government must also take into account the 20% of revenue collected through entrance fees to the national park, activity fees that are paid to local governments.
He called on the government to stop all “illegal” activity in Kyambura Gorge, as it is a protected area, and to think about using smart energy like solar energy, among others.
Benedict Ntale of the Bugoma Forest Conservation Association, said Ugandan law has established broad guidelines for protection and conservation, but implementation and enforcement are still weak.
Ntale noted that the best example is the ongoing deforestation in Bugoma Forest, an area that is protected by law.
Bugoma Forest is currently a central forest reserve, under the 2003 National Forestry and Tree Planning Law, Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 1998, with an area of 41,144 ha and managed by the NFA.
The forest is Uganda’s third largest chimpanzee sanctuary with an estimated 500 chimpanzees and home to unique species like African bush elephants.
Ntale noted that Bugoma Forest is also a key sanctuary with 221 recorded bird species, and a crucial migratory corridor for chimpanzees, elephants among others, making it necessary to avoid extinction.
He says the link between the two issues is obvious since both are legally protected areas that are intended to be encroached upon or already encroached upon by companies seeking “profit.”
Ntale says companies don’t respect the high value of rich ecosystems that being destroyed is difficult and expensive to rebuild.
“Given the impact of tourism on the country’s economy, these issues must be addressed as a priority, the two forests are home to chimpanzees, in addition to the rich biodiversity of the country, this is one of the competitive advantages of Uganda as a tourist destination towards the main competitors. said Ntale.
He asked the UWA to take over the management of the Bugoma forest and announce it as a protected area under his authority.