On my most recent trip to Uganda, I arrived just in time for terrorist warnings at the Entebbe airport. Luckily, I had no idea about the warnings until well after I had landed, cleared customs, and left the airport. Since the first major and most devastating terrorist attack had occurred during the Football World Cup Finals 4 years ago in a sports bar and Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala, the return of the World Cup also meant the return of worrying about what might happen. Thank goodness Soft Power Health’s home village of Kyabirwa, also home to the NRE campsite, is not a particularly populated hub of activity even when it is busy, and hopefully would not rate high on the list of prime targets for terrorists. It also happens to be far away from any big towns or cities.
As always, it was great to be back in Uganda and just in time for 4th of July. Every Peace Corps volunteer from Uganda showed up for 4th of July festivities at NRE and it was quite a celebration – it reminded me of the heyday of the infamous NRE bar.
Along with catching up on a number of Soft Power Health projects, including making sure our summer volunteers were settled into their research tasks, following up on a number of community patients and visiting a number of outreach programs, I did get some good paddling in! It’s always good to be back on the Nile – I appreciate being able to paddle there so much. Between the quality of paddling and play features, the warm water, the beauty of the river, and the easy access, there really is no place like it. So, it was very sad to learn that the largest of three proposed dams to be built at the rapid known as Malalu has been approved for construction.
This is extremely disappointing but not totally surprising. Anyone who has spent time in Africa knows that supposed rules of law are rarely applied and enforced. In this particular case, when the Silverback dam was constructed, which made Bujagali Falls a lake, an offset agreement was signed between the World Bank and the government of Uganda to preserve an area of the Nile that includes Itanda Falls and approximately 25 kilometers of the Nile and its riverbanks below Itanda. The Dam at Malalu also known as the Isimba dam would not produce much power whether the largest or smallest dam is selected to be built. This dam is really an interim way to cover small power needs until the Karuma Dam is completed much farther down stream. The Karuma dam is a very large power project and will be finished in approximately 7 years. The Isimba dam is to be fast tracked and completed in 2½ years – really soon!
In the Isimba case, the smallest dam of the three options would preserve the Kalagala offset agreement and supply power as an interim measure albeit slightly less power than the medium or large sized dams. Although the word in Uganda is that the largest dam has been selected at Isimba, nothing is written in stone yet – and so if any of you reading this blog want to help, please email/write to SATU (Save Adventure Tourism in Uganda: WordPress page; Facebook page), or Kayak the Nile, or Nile River Explorers, and sign the petition to save the Nile – the more people that express interest in saving the Nile, the bigger voice we have. In addition, if anyone reading this has news/publicity connections and wants to help, please get in touch and help spread the word! The fight to save the Nile is far from over and every person’s voice can help!! Finally, make sure you come see and paddle this magnificent river before it becomes a lake!
[Dr Jessie Stone is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014]