World Bank Official Defends Selected Nile Dams

A US$500 million dam at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River has been defended by the World Bank against criticism from environmentalists.

RWANDA, Uganda, UG, 2001-11-28 [] The dam is “the least-cost way of bringing power to Uganda’s electricity grid,” says Ron Brigish, the organization’s coordinator of programs for Tanzania and Uganda. He acknowledges that any alteration of the River Nile will have an environmental impact, but adds, “if you adopt the attitude that the environmental impacts of hydroprojects cannot be mitigated, the country wouldn’t develop.” He adds that NGOs, “even the ones who criticize the project, have not been able to come up with any economically viable alternative.” The World Bank and the Uganda government have adopted an offset policy to its projects in which not all potential sites will be developed. Kalagala, eight miles upstream from Bujagali, will not be developed and nor will Murchison, one of the prime tourist destinations in the country. Bujagali and its rapids are also valuable to the tourist industry. Brigish concedes that the falls are beautiful and that the rapids provide whitewater rafting, but adds that Kalagala is even more beautiful. A number of Ugandan organizations oppose the project due to the environmental impact and the forced resettlement of 400 families. Following consultations with affected people, the World Bank says the vast majority support the dam because of generous resettlement packages. Local residents stand to benefit from construction of the dam. Critics of the project argue that Uganda should focus on renewable energy sources. Brigish says a World Bank project of $30 million is exploring the potential of sugar waste and solar energy, but adds that rural generation in areas not tied to the grid cannot generate 200 MW.
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