SAVE ADVENTURE TOURISM IN UGANDA
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development is planning to construct a hydro dam on the Nile at Isimba Falls, 50km downstream from Jinja. As
a result of this dam, a large reservoir of around 28km² will be created, and
the white water rapids on this section of the Nile will be submerged.
Initially this may not seem like a cause of concern for Uganda and its people, however
this could not be further from the truth.
The exceptional white water that is set to be flooded is famous worldwide. It is safe,
warm and deep in nature and its consistent flows allow access to the river all year
around. This is unique and brings tens of thousands of people to Uganda each year!
How important is Uganda’s adventure tourism?
Tourists come to Uganda from all over the globe specifically for the white water, and a
booming industry has been built around it. Jinja is now well regarded as the ‘adventure
capital of East Africa’ and a large number of secondary businesses have grown
around the central river activities. Without the Nile’s white water, it will not just be the
river activity companies that will cease to operate, the effects will reach far and wide.
The downturn in tourism will also have adverse effects on all the secondary activity
businesses, hotels, restaurants, taxi companies, boda boda drivers, shops and
services that are currently thriving in Jinja due to adventure tourism. All these are set
to lose longterm trade, income, and jobs. It is expected that even tourism in the rest
of Uganda will be hurt by the knock on effect of losing one of the primary, and
distinctive attractions of tourists to the country.
The following quote, taken from the New Vision on 20th September 2013, expresses
just how important the tourism industry is to Uganda:
“Tourism earnings jumped by 22% in 2011 with the country raking in $832
million, up from $662 million in 2010. This is almost double the $449 million that the
country earned from coffee, Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner for decades.”
Tourism, the rich neglected goldmine – New Vision 2013
An estimated fifty thousand people participate in adventure activities each year around
Jinja, many of which would not have travelled to Uganda without the amazing rapids.
The trickle down effect of the money these tourists spend in Uganda is huge.
What are the alternatives?
Initially, different options for the size and scale of the Isimba dam were proposed. The
decision has already been made to go with the largest project of these options, and it
is this option that will destroy tourism. The smaller option would still create electricity
and have negligible impact on tourism.
The smaller dam offers a beautiful balance of creating much needed power for the
country, and allowing adventure tourism to continue to flourish and expand as it has
been over the last decade, driving Uganda’s development forwards in the Jinja region.
Long Term Development
After the completion of dam, any employment brought by the construction will be
gone, and very little of the tourism will be left in the Jinja area. Many of the businesses
that once blossomed from the abundance of visitors will be forced to close down
entirely. An independent team of researchers conducting an economic study to
assess the full impact of the Isimba Hydro Project has compiled a list of over two
hundred tourism related companies that will be affected. The vast majority of these
businesses are owned and run by Ugandans, and collectively they employ thousands
of Ugandans in long term, stable and well paid jobs.
During the planning stages of the Isimba Hydro Project, almost no correspondence
was had with the adventure tourism industry, only a few of the 200+ companies that
will be affected were consulted and even those were not consulted fully. Those
making the decisions about the Isimba dam do not have accurate, comprehensive or
sufficient information on how badly this will hurt the tourism industry and the Ugandan
people. We would like to change this so that an informed decision can be made
based on all the facts.
If we preserve the white water with a smaller option of the dam, Ugandan tourism will
have a very exciting time ahead of it. Right now, the Nile near Jinja and the Zambezi
River in Zambia are the best white water tourism areas in Africa, and arguably the
world. The Zambezi is facing the same challenge as the Nile, and a huge hydropower
project that will spoil the region’s white water tourism is also set to go ahead. Once the
Zambezi project is complete, Jinja will truly be Africa’s undisputed adventure capital
destination and the world’s best white water rafting. A unique lure to Uganda, and
would bring a huge surge in numbers from a variety of sources. How fantastic would it
be for Uganda’s development to be internationally recognised as the world’s leading
country for white water tourism?
What can we do?
Awareness of this issue is critical and we need help to save thousands of Ugandan
jobs and one of Uganda’s natural wonders.
- Like and share our Facebook page ‘Save Adventure Tourism in Uganda’, this is where we will be posting the most up to date information we have: https://www.facebook.com/saveadventuretourisminUganda
- Get this message to anyone that can help raise awareness. Forward this information to anyone who you may feel it could be of interest to. The ultimate aim is to get this message to the key decision makers in Uganda.
The Save Adventure Tourism in Uganda Team