In 2006 the Government of Uganda in collaboration with the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) owned by the Mehta Group of companies announced plans to clear one-third of the Mabira Central Forest Reserve (around 70 square kilometres (27 sq mi), for sugarcane plantations. Government then proposed to de-gazette this land and transfer its ownership to SCOUL.
The deforestation plans however, were disputed within Uganda. Environmentalists and the general public in Uganda feared for the loss of hundreds of endangered species, increased soil erosion, the damage of livelihoods of thousands of local people who directly depend on the forest, and the negative impacts on water balance and regional climate.
The President and cabinet supported the plan and viewed it in terms of increased job creation. The cabinet then claimed the plan would generate 3,500 jobs and contribute 11.5 billion Ugandan shillings to the treasury. The unemployment rate in Uganda then stood at 1.90 percent according the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Despite all effort –dialogue meetings between environmental activists and the president, government line ministries and the management of SCOUL, with clear reasons to dispute the forest give-away, the president went ahead with the de-gazettement plan.
Uganda is one of the most energy poor countries in the world, with limited access to electricity. With a population of about 35 million people, only about nine (according to World Bank, 2013) percent of Ugandans are on the national electricity grid and these are largely (certainly not entirely) upper and middle class people. Since 1954 when Uganda got it first hydropower plant, the country has highly depended on hydropower from large dams for almost all of her electricity needs. Unfortunately, donors and government have been more interested in large, centralized hydropower plants rather than smaller scale projects that could share the energy wealth around the country. Secondly, the cost of extending power from the main grid to rural communities scattered in different areas remains a big challenge.
In 1996, in a bid to increase electricity and spur development in the country, government proposed to construct another big dam near Bujagali falls on river Nile, 8 kilometers downstream of the Naluubale (Owen Falls dam). Government then approached the World Bank for financial support to construct the energy facility. The World Bank and Government of Uganda claimed the project will double electrical output, stimulate industrial development and bring electricity to Uganda’s poor.