A Dam Disaster

An Australian social worker,two Danes in their early 20's and their friend from Nepal working with Mulago Hospital ,Some Backpackers basking in last night's afterglow,an American couple chatting about Gorilla trekking with a freelance blogger from Kampala.
What do all these people have in common you may ask? The answer is simple,The Mighty River Nile.

A few minutes ago i was on a Boda Boda around 6:30AM on a chilly morning heading to Oasis Mall Kampala to catch the Nile River Explorers shuttle that takes Tourists to Jinja for Rafting and other adventures everyday.

The bus is fully packed,a lot of introductions and laughter going on. We make our way to Jinja road and into Mukono as the sun is rising sipping through the trees creating a magnificent silhouette,i can feel it on my cheek,my window seat allows me to feel the cool breeze from outside as the cars go by. Before we reach Jinja the driver stops the Bus,pulls over to the side of the road,the door opens and a young lady in her early teens enters. The driver hands her Fifty thousand shillings(Around $18) and off she goes.

We continue on our journey reaching Jinja Town,The bus pulls into Nile River Explorers Backpackers right in the heart of Jinja Town,this is where am going to be staying for the weekend as i snap a few photos at the 10th Annual Nile River Festival.
The Nile River Festival is a gathering that brings Kayakers and Like minded people from the world over to Kayak,drink,enjoy the beautiful sights in Jinja and make merry in process supporting the local economy.It lasts a period of 4 days in which a big open air ramp freestyle challenge,an 30km enduarance race down the Nile,a freestyle competition on the Nile Special wave and a memorial race down Itanda falls to remember Hendri Coetzee a South African Kayaker who died kayaking in the Congo, are held and a winner chosen at the end of the competition to take home cash prizes and lots of other goodies.

"We used to hold the festival in October but we changed it to January due to bad weather" Will Clark General Manager of Nalubale Rafting comments.

Will Clark making his way on the Nile Special Wave.

Will Clark making his way on the Nile Special Wave.

Outside the Nile River Explorers backpackers is a Boda Boda stage,their main clientele are tourists coming out of the Hostel heading to Bujagali and other spots in Jinja. Most Tourist establishments here have a Boda Boda stage outside. These Boda boda riders earn more taking Tourists each day. On a good day, each rider can take up to 40 tourists around charging each about 5000 to 10000 ($2 - $4) depending on where they are going.

I jump on one of the Bodas and head to Bujagali at the Nile River Explorers Camp where am to hitch a ride to the Nile Special wave. The first thing you notice while on the way to Bujagali is the overly dusty road. Mind you, This road is very crucial to the Jinja Economy. Everything from Tourists going to Bujagali,Itanda Falls to farmers bringing in their produce from Budondo to sell in town. Almost everything passes through here but the Authorities responsible haven't lifted a finger towards its maintenance. Eventually after coughing up tons of dust, i arrive at Nile River Explorers Bujagali the scene here is packed and bubbly,everyone getting ready to head to the Nile Special wave to see Kayakers go against the wave.

I head inside and am welcomed by Emily. Emily is The Britain Freestyle Kayak champion and co-owns Kayak The Nile a reputable Kayak Company that runs Trips on the Nile and also coaches Kayaking with her husband Sam Ward also a Kayaker,a spectacular one at that and also the British Kayak Team Coach.
Emily gives me permission to ride with the staff on a back of a truck full of paddles for photo opportunities and also introduces me to Lowri Davies.


One of the few shots i managed to capture on the Truck as the road was quite bumpy.

One of the few shots i managed to capture on the Truck as the road was quite bumpy.


Emily Ward on the Nile Special Wave.

Emily Ward on the Nile Special Wave.

Sam Ward taming the Nile Special Wave.

Sam Ward taming the Nile Special Wave.

Sam Ward flipped by the strong wave.

Sam Ward flipped by the strong wave.

Lowrie works for a Kayak Coaching Company called FlowFree which runs trips the world over.She is an avid Kayaker and passionate about Uganda. She has had many chances to travel but she tells me the only country in Africa she has been to is Uganda. She loves it here.
The first thing you notice are her blue tinted sunglasses she never takes off and her waterproof phone pouch. "Most of my things are waterproof,even if am not planning to get in the water, I usually do" She says.

Lowri arriving at  the Nile Special wave to Kayak.

Lowri arriving at the Nile Special wave to Kayak.


She gets her gear ready for the wave.

She gets her gear ready for the wave.

Before i get on the truck i run out and get a rolex just outside of the camp,Emmanuel the Rolex guy is busy today like most other days,The Tourists have swamped his stall. He makes about 8 Rolexes in the 15 minutes am there. Emmanuel is very popular among Tourists here.Just a while back in town at Jinja Explorers backpackers, Jacques a french cyclist asked me to say hi to Emmanuel if i pass by his stall.

But Emmanuel and the nearby farmers who supply him fresh produce for his business,the shuttle driver that brought us to Jinja,the boda boda riders,the employees of all the Adventure Tourism companies and all of the people reaping big from the sustainable adventure tourism Jinja has provided for so long will soon be out of jobs.

Emmanuel at his stall

Emmanuel at his stall

In 2001, planning started for the Bujagali Dam. The Government of Uganda secured funding from the International Finance Corporation who are a branch of The World Bank. Construction then started in 2007. In 2012 when the Dam was complete, the reservoir areas filled up flooding and destroying homes,farms,wildlife areas and jobs as well as beautiful white water rapids.

Bujagali produces 250 Megawatts of power but because of damage done by the Bujagali project an agreement was made between the Ugandan Government,IDA and The World Bank to protect the remaining habitat of world class rapids situated below the Bujagali Dam.

In the agreement the Ugandan Government accepted to make an offset area to save the remaining rapids and to protect and mitigate the environment dangers caused by Bujagali Dam.
The ministry of water and environment honored the agreement and set up the Kalagala Offset Sustainable Management Plan.
When the World Bank funded the Bujagali Dam they realized how many peoples livelihood relied on the river.

If The World Bank allows that area to be flooded by another Dam they will be breaking the promise they made to the Ugandan people, by Not protecting them.

The Ministry of Energy And Mineral Development are planning to put up yet another Dam on the White Nile this time located at Isimba falls 50km downstream from Jinja and Preliminary construction has began without proper permission.

A massive reservoir of 28 Square Kilo metres will be created. The reservoir will be three times the size of the Bujagali reservoir but will create far less power.

If this goes ahead, an amazing ecosystem will be drowned and the remaining white water rapids will be gone.

If Isimba Dam is built with a 28 reservoir, the Government Of Uganda and the World Bank will be breaking the law and their promise to the people of Jinja and Uganda.

Most people are not against the Dam,what they are against is the Isimba Dam flooding in the Kalagala offset area.

By building a smaller Dam a far better compromise will be made which will keep the rapids but still allow power to be generated.
If the Government goes ahead and builds a bigger dam, Rafting and Kayaking will nolonger be viable. Adventure tourism will stop, and in turn this will affect tourism in Uganda severely.

Uganda's top foreign export earns $449 million a year while tourism alone earns Uganda $832 million a year!

The Jinja Adventure Tourism scene employs over half a million Ugandans directly and indirectly. Over Twenty Thousand Tourists visit Jinja every year to Raft and this has earned this little eastern town the title "Adventure Capital of East Africa" because the white water found here is unique and can only be found in few countries across the world.


A Ugandan Kayaker 'Ripping' the waves.

A Ugandan Kayaker 'Ripping' the waves.


After the reservoir filled,Bujagali falls turned into Bujagali Lake.


The Bad Place as its commonly called by Kayakers located on itanda falls will be no more once Isimba Dam floods the Kalagala Offset Area.

The Bad Place as its commonly called by Kayakers located on itanda falls will be no more once Isimba Dam floods the Kalagala Offset Area.

The writer at "The Bad Place" Itanda.

Sunset at Bujagali Lake.

Sunset at Bujagali Lake.


Revelers at the 10th annual Nile River Festival.

Revelers at the 10th annual Nile River Festival.


This local dancer and his troupe make a living by entertaining visitors at itanda falls.

This local dancer and his troupe make a living by entertaining visitors at itanda falls.


To many underprivileged youth here,the river represents hope. It is their source of income through fishing,farming and employment by Adventure Companies.

To help stop the destruction of such a beautiful gem. please help contact the World Bank by Using The details below.


Here are some important email contacts to start with (but feel free to find more!):

Phillip Hay – phay@worldbank.org
(Head of communications Africa Region)

Sheila Gashishiri sgashishiri@worldbank.org
(Head of World Bank in Uganda)

Sarwat Hussain – Shussain@worldbank.org
(Senior Communications officer, Africa Region Sustainable development, Washington)

and here is a link to make it super easy to find your local representative.

You can write to any or all of the above contacts, but better to address them all individually rather than sending a mass email out to them.

There is a template email below, which we suggest you modify to make it personal. It can also be much more to the point to Sheila Gashishiri and to Phillip Hay, who are well aware of the Kalagala offset and the Isimba Dam, if  you are emailing your local representative around the world they will need the full email background.

Remember the point is to pressure the World Bank to uphold their agreement (and much more important to them) their reputation.


Representative for the World Bank in (ENTER YOUR HOME COUNTRY / REGION).

I am writing as a concerned citizen of (ENTER YOUR COUNTRY) about a serious issue in Uganda, which directly concerns The World Bank.

As a mitigation measure for the (World Bank backed) Bujagali Hydro Power Project a conservation agreement called the Kalagala Offset Agreement was formed.

The agreement between the World Bank and the Government of Uganda was put in place to protect the remaining stretch of rapids and river banks in the same region, for the sake of minimizing impact on the environment, the local people and eco tourism which flourishes in the area.

Now, the Isimba Hydro Power Project will flood a significant portion of this conservation area thus breaking this agreement. Isimba HPP is funded by the Chinese government, and due to be constructed by a Chinese construction firm, both of whom seem unconcerned that a conservation area is due to be flooded.

I am urging The World Bank to act on behalf of the thousands of Ugandans due to be negatively effected, as well as the environment, and the tourism that generates large amounts of income in an otherwise under developed region.

Fifteen thousand people, including 12,000 Ugandans from the immediate area, have signed a petition demanding the agreement be upheld and a smaller version of the Isimba HPP to be constructed (which would leave the conservation area unaffected).

Please stand up to China and the Ugandan government and uphold the agreement that is laid out by The World Bank to protect the stretch of river due to be flooded.

Thank you for your support and understanding.



For further information please contact Save Adventure Tourism:



About Wasswa Artha

I am water…I am fire…I am day and night .....Nirvana.......


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