Hydropower in Uganda

Developing countries are defined by their lack of infrastructure and lowered quality of living. In this context, energy becomes increasingly important when attempting   to improve either the living standard or the infrastructure. If more of the population can access energy sources, the population has an increased chance for literacy as well as survival. Uganda has been exploring many energy options within its borders, the most prevalent being hydropower. In this paper I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower to the environment, society, and economy of Uganda.

Hydropower in Uganda has had both positive and negative effects on the environment. The Owens Falls Dam is locate as the gateway of the White Nile River into Lake Victoria. The Indigenous population refers to this dam as Nalubaale. Prior to the construction of the dam, the water levels were always moderate which remained consistent for a short while after the construction of the dam in 1954. Water levels on Lake Victoria were moderated by a natural rock dam on the north shore of the lake. This would cause rising lake waters to flood over the natural dam into the White Nile (AP, 2006). On the opposing side, if water levels drop, flow into the river will cease. Upon the construction of the current dam, a bilateral treaty between Uganda and Egypt ensured that the natural flow of the Nile would not be affected by the dam. This becomes increasingly important when considering the natural flooding of the nile and the importance of floods to the prevention of soil erosion and the spread of essential minerals and soil nutrients. When constructing dams, governments have to be aware of the impact on natural habitats. With the intentions of building multiple dams along the white nile to meet the energy demands of the country, Uganda needs to maintain the natural flow of water throughout the entire region (Urban, 2011). Additionally, the impact that dams have on ecosystems is of concern. When dams are constructed, the change the natural migration patterns of certain species. The overall benefit that outweighs each disadvantage is the lack of Co2 emissions by dams (Urban, 2011). This makes hydroelectric power an extremely environmentally responsible solution for developing nations. Its renewable, cost effective, and does not contribution to the destruction of the environment.

In terms of the social implications of hydropower are another relevant issue to discuss. Specifically in terms of developing nations, hydropower gives the population more access to clean energy which means that there are a number of improvements across the board. The population can become more informed because there is more power capable of powering communication resources. Additionally food quality improves because citizens have increased access to energy sources for cooking meals. Along side of other issues that are critical to the quality of life, and energy grid thats operating at full capacity is critical to improving the lives of the citizens in Uganda.

Finally, the economics of hydropower is extremely important for developing nations. Compared with fossil fuels and other resource based energy sources, hydropower has very stable operational cost that remain consistent (Rabi, 2005). There are no market fluctuations and it is not a finite resource. This makes hydropower an important asset for Uganda’s energy grid. It would allow for more of the countries GDP to be allocated towards the improvement of the social infrastructure as opposed to growing energy concerns. Additionally, Hydroelectric plants have long economic life-spans, some plants are still in service after 100+ years. Moreover, labor operational cost is typically low, due to the fact that plants are automated and have few personnel on site during normal operation (Rabi, 2005).

Developing countries can benefit tremendously from the installation of hydroelectric power plants. The negative impacts on the environment are small if any at all. In terms of the social benefits, developing countries can increase the human capital of the population by increasing their citizens access to energy. While some developing countries lack the leadership necessary to rally their population behind energy initiatives, Uganda is uniquely positioned to bolster support from local leaders as well as the population at large. Finally, the economics of hydro-electric power position Uganda to be one a leader in the Greater Horn of Africa.


Associated Press (2006-11-30). “Britain had secret plan to cut flow of Nile River —       newly opened official file”. International Herald Tribune. http://     www.iht.com/            articles/ap/2006/12/01/europe/EU_GEN_Britain_Suez.php.           Retrieved 2011-11-19.

Urban, Frauke and Tom Mitchell 2011. Climate change, disasters and electricity generation.London: Overseas Development Institute and Institute of         Development Studies

Rabl A. et. al. (August 2005). “Final Technical Report, Version 2”. Externalities of          Energy: Extension of Accounting Framework and Policy Applications. European            Commission. http://www.externe.info/expoltec.pdf.

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