The White Nile IV
THE WHITE NILE, ANOTHER GREAT RIVER DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION?
Our first glimpse of the White Nile consisted of the huge Owen Falls hydroelectric complex. The main dam was built by the British as long ago as 1954, flooding the real source of the river where water from Lake Victoria flowed northwards over Owen/Ripon Falls. The conflict between conservation and the need to find sources of renewable energy is nothing new! Having recently extended the complex, the Ugandan government is now planning the next phase, another huge dam 1 - 2 miles downstream of Bujagali Falls where the rafting run starts, flooding out the first few rapids. In the longer term, as demand grows, it's pretty obvious that more dams could be built further and further downstream.
This is a depressing prospect, however; as white water canoeists are we capable of being objective on this one? Uganda is a poor country with a lack of fossil fuels that just so happens to have an enormous source of renewable energy, the White Nile. In fact, the dam at Jinja provides Uganda with all its power. Neighbouring Kenya is desperately short of power at the moment; it's hydroelectric schemes to the north are dependent on rains that haven't materialized, hence the widely reported drought. Kenya imports electricity from Uganda; indeed, it has been doing so since 1954.
As both countries seek to develop, building a manufacturing base and infrastructure and with a growing middle class demanding the things we enjoy in the west, demand for electricity can only grow. No one concerned with preserving the environment can surely see fossil fuels as the answer and in looking at renewable forms of energy, harnessing the power of rivers is an inevitable part of the solution. Whilst smaller scale, microturbine schemes may provide an alternative to major schemes in many parts of the world; in this particular part of the world the loss of much of the Nile's white water may be the unavoidable price we have to pay. Is there an alternative?