Bujagali dam unlikely to benefit ordinary Ugandans

2 April 2007

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The World Bank is so keen to promote the Bujagali II hydropower project as the solution to Uganda’s energy problems (see Update 54) that it has set up a special website for it. The project stalled in 2002 over corruption concerns but now that Kenya based IPS has been secured as a new investor, completion is expected in 2010. A recent IFC-commissioned report claims that the project would be part of the least-cost expansion plan to meet rising electricity demand in Uganda, reducing domestic electricity costs by 10 per cent but NGOs say the $750mn project is more costly than other options. Formal IFC approval for $100 million is set for April. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and African Development Bank are also considering support for the project.

Local and international groups who have been lobbying for a full and fair review of Uganda’s energy options point out that Bujagali is unlikely to meet the needs of the 95 per cent of Ugandans who live far from the national grid and have never benefited from modern energy services. A new report by US NGO International Rivers Network (IRN) documents the dam’s failure to comply with the majority of the seven strategic priorities of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) (see Update 47). The project’s consideration for carbon credits by the Dutch government would require compliance with the WCD’s framework. The report finds that:

  • studies have failed to address the anticipated impacts of the dam on water releases from Lake Victoria, which is already at a critically low level;
  • the dam will be vulnerable to climate change-induced drought;
  • public disclosure of many key documents has been inadequate; and
  • a comprehensive assessment of Uganda’s energy needs and alternative options for addressing the country’s energy crisis has not been carried out

A claim has been filed with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel from Uganda’s National Association of Professional Environmentalists.

A letter was sent to the director of Bujagali Energy Limited from communities who were displaced to the Naminya resettlement area five years ago when dam construction began. The letter, copied to the World Bank, lists numerous unfulfilled commitments that were promised to the community as part of a resettlement package. These relate to land ownership, education and health services, water provision, housing, latrines, electricity, food and income, employment and infrastructure. The communities also point out that they are ignored by World Bank representatives during site visits.