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The Bujagali Falls Hydroelectric Power Plant involved a project to design, build and operate a power plant at Bujagali falls in Jinga province, Uganda to sell electricity to Uganda’s state owned Electricity Board. The project also included the construction of power transmission lines, associated substations and a reservoir. At its full supply level, the project’s reservoir would inundate 80 hectares of land and 308 hectares of area previously occupied by the Victoria Nile River. This inundation raised serious concern amongst local populations in relation to cultural and spiritual effects. In July 2001, Mr Alfred Bageya, a Ugandan born Canadian, lodged a complaint with CAO claiming that the grave of his grandfather and other graves, which were located on Dumbell Island, would be submerged during construction of the Bujagali Falls Reservoir. The complainant alleged that the Bujagali Falls in general, and his grandfather’s site in particular, were in fact sacred sites that ought to be preserved. Finally, the complainant asserted that the project failed to comply with World Bank Group policies in relation to burial sites and protection of indigenous culture and traditions. The complainant’s contention that his grandfather was buried on the island, despite being unaware of the exact location of the gravesite, was based on his recollections from attending a ceremony in the area when he was a young boy.
This project aroused serious interest by many stakeholders including industry, NGO, Government of Uganda (GOU), civil society and impacted persons. According to IFC Environmental and Social Review Procedures, IFC reviewed the company’s Resettlement and Community Development plan and concluded that it complied with IFC safeguard policies. A house-by-house consultative process to best determine how to deal with spiritual and cultural matters during all phases of the project was undertaken. Surveys were also undertaken to identify graves and cultural property in the project area, including Dumbell Island, which uncovered no grave sites.
Case Status: Closed
CAO concluded, in its Assessment Report of September 2001, that the evidence provided to CAO by IFC contradicted the issues raised by the complainant. Despite recommending that the complainant present individuals who could corroborate the information he provided, CAO later concluded that the evidence provided by the complainant could not be verified. Accordingly, the complaint was closed in January 2005.
CAO case story page: http://www.cao-ombudsman.org/cases/case_detail.aspx?id=115