The popular Bujagali falls that are a hot spot for tourists and locals, will be ready next year for Hydro Electric Power. On long weekends, thousands throng the site to see the water gush over the rocks and watch rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids, applauding those brave enough to attempt it and cheer on those whose rafts flipped, throwing the daring rafters into the clear warm waters of the Nile. Accommodation and restaurant facilities have been erected on site since tourism began its revival in Jinja in the mid-1990s, and Bujagali has become as famous a name for white-water rafting as the Zambezi and other challenging rivers.
Former power plant promoters, AES of Virginia in the US, still stand exposed as either fools or peddlers of ill intent, as their studies for the power plant in the 1990s projected tourism levels, both in terms of numbers and in terms of income, which were far from the truth then and have in fact been massively overtaken by reality since then. It is, therefore, no wonder that when AES fell upon hard times, following the ENRON collapse, few shed a tear when their project collapsed, and they left Uganda with the proverbial tail between their legs.
Years later, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development came on the scene to revive the project, following hard years for Ugandans when the hydroelectric plant at Owen Falls had to reduce output after lake levels had sunk to record lows following prolonged droughts and increased use of water from source rivers for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, leaving less and less reaching the lake in the end. With the new power plant on a sounder financial footing, and following extensive stakeholder consultations across the board, construction eventually went underway three years ago, and by early next year, the dam will be closed, leading to the flooding of all up-river rapids and falls, rendering them unusable for rafting activities.
However, it is understood that the rafting companies will relocate to new entry points below the new dam, while a whole range of other water and sports-based activities may spring up on the new lake forming behind the dam, affording other opportunities to utilize the river’s waters.
Meanwhile though, as the countdown continues, this is the opportunity now to visit Jinja one last time, or many times as opportunity allows, and raft or kayak the original stretch of river for as long as is possible, as afterwards, all which remains will be memories of Bujagali, joining those memories of old of Rippon Falls and only then found in old guide books and the work of historians.
Uganda Safari News Cnsusltant