Despite calls for the 250MW Bujagali power project to be halted due to environmental concerns, the World Bank has reiterated its commitment to the project.
"The World Bank management remains committed to the successful implementation of this project including the appropriate application of the relevant environmental and social safeguards.
"The project is critical to Uganda’s economic development and we will continue to work with the Government to ensure that this project meets high standards." said Michel Wormser, World Bank sector director for sustainable development for Africa region.
The International River Network and National Association for Professional Environmentalists (SAPE) have once again raised concerns about the project, particularly as regards the impact of hydrology, fisheries, inspection panels and protected reserves.
Frank Muramuzi, the executive director of NAPE, additionally feels that the cost of the project is ‘very high’.
However, Bujagali forms part of Uganda’s strategy to ensure energy security and deal with social and economic development constraints.
"The project’s approval reflected a shared view by management and the board of the critical importance of providing a new source of electricity expeditiously to Uganda and confidence that thorough economic, environmental and social due diligence has been undertaken to identify and realise that source," Wormser explained.
An action plan had been developed that addressed environmental and social concerns raised during the initial development of the Bujagali site and this was incorporated into the newly approved project plans.
In addition to reduced power tariffs, the project would also "allow for the elimination of subsidies to the sector which currently represent about one-third of the sector costs and are ultimately borne by all Uganda taxpayers."
"The Government of Uganda has reaffirmed its position that environmental conservation is a part of the overall framework for the construction of the Bujagali hydropower project and the Government’s continued commitment to obligation meant to compensate for the environmental and social effects of the proposed Bujagali project," Wormer continued.
"This commitment includes developing and adopting a sustainable management programme, which is mutually agreeable to both the Government and the Bank."