“We sound as though we are opposing this dam, but we are not opposing it. Just let this part remain, don’t kill another thing that is already living. “
This post is part of a series of portraits looking at the individuals affected if the Ugandan government’s plan for a large reservoir feeding a hydropower project at Isimba go ahead. Construction of a dam this large would destroy the tourism industry in Jinja the country’s second largest city and have large effects on the surrounding communities. Based on the information provided options of a smaller dam are viable and would protect or even boost the tourism here as well as providing electricity to the area surrounding the dam.
If you haven’t already read the introduction to this series then please read this post first.
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Euwlima Abraham, better known as Abra, is a tour guide at Bujagali who has a clear passion for the environment and the nature around him. A true family man, he relies on the tourist economy here in Bujagali to support those around him without reservation. I am lucky to be able to count Abra as one of my friends and highly value his view of the situation that could befall this region.
I’ve been working in the tourist industry for twelve years now, I have been in my current job for 5 years and still enjoy every time that I get to go out on the water. My main role is as a tour guide for the people wanting to experience the beauty of the river Nile but do not have the time to do the whitewater kayaking or the rafting. Or even for those who want to a bit more of a relaxing time and to see some of the wildlife here. I get to tell them about the birds, the crops, the farm islands, and how the fishermen on the lake work. It is really great for people to be able to paddle up to a fishing boat and see peoples’ interest as they look into the boat to see what someone has caught. When I am not working on the water I take care of the store room and keep all the equipment in good condition for the people that come on the river with us.
I am originally from the north west of Uganda but moved down to Jinja for work. I do not live far away from Bujagali and can walk to work in the morning from the land my family lives on. Currently I have three children and my elderly father also stays with me. My mother remains where I grew up in a village near Arua. When I was a child I was able to go to school until my father got sick. He was no longer able to afford my school fees so I had to join him in the field and dig for the food that we ate.
My work now means that I can provide for all my family including my father’s family. Sadly my brother passed away recently too, so my nieces and nephews that were orphaned also rely on me and another of my relatives. We are not rich men but we are able to survive, I can look after my land and I am even able to prepare land which I hope to rent in the future. Though things move slowly but I am really happy because I am able to push everything forward at the same time without any complaint. Helping people, for me, really doesn’t have a limit because being an african we help people without limit. Whoever needs help if you can then you do, thats just how african culture is. It is how I was brought up, you help those in need.
I don’t think I am really one of the people that people will have thought about when considering the dam. My job does not physically depend on the whitewater but if it goes then so does my work. When people come here they might plan to stay for one or two nights, but in reality they end up staying for four or five nights, sometimes even longer. The kayaking and the rafting brings them here in the first place but then they realise there is much more to explore than just those things, and getting out on the calm water is something that people really enjoy.
If the tallest dam is built then is built then the first thing that I will have to consider is how will I keep myself? With no job I fear that my health will suffer. Second but something that is just as important is how am I going to be able to afford to send my children to school? We are told how important a good education is but it is not free. I earn money now knowing that can prepare my children for the world. Once the dam is built and if they really build the highest wall then it will not just stop the river but stop my ability to earn and all the things that I am able to do with that money.
We are really getting too close to the darkness, if the tourists are not interested in coming here then even if they make it as far as Jinja it is guaranteed that they will not make it as far as Bujagali. It will mean the end of a lot of peoples jobs, the end of our prosperity. I try to look for the reason that is worth taking all of this away but every time I search I just can’t find it.
We sound as though we are opposing this dam, but we are not opposing it. Just let this part remain, don’t kill another thing that is already living. There is an outcome of this project that means that the industry here can stay and power is provided to those downstream. This seems like the choice we need to make.
I honour my father for being truthful to me when he became sick, but telling my children then they will have to leave school is not something that I want to have to do.
Other Isimba dam profiles;