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Kenya-based M-KOPA Solar announced that it has connected an estimated 20,000 Ugandan homes to affordable solar power in the past 15 months.

M-KOPA solar III: powering over 20,000 Ugandan homes with solar power. Pic credit: m-kopaThe ‘pay-as-you-go’ energy service provider for off-grid homes is extending its product offering across the country with a target of connecting 50,000 additional off-grid households by the end of 2015.

Jesse Moore, managing director and co-founder of M-KOPA Solar, said: “We are very proud of the M-KOPA III solar home system and our success to date in Uganda. Together we are helping Ugandans get rid of kerosene, improve their standard of living and save money all at once.”

M-KOPA customers can buy the M-KOPA III kit for a deposit of UGX 90,000 (ZAR390) plus 365 daily payments of UGX 1400 (ZAR5). The company claims the price is cheaper than the daily kerosene needed to power lights and to charge phones.

Small-scale gold miners, government decry poor disposal of mercury in miningGold miners in the country have expressed concern on the improper disposal of mercury within the industry. Mercury is used in all gold mines in the country to sieve or attract ‘gold dusts’ from soil.

However, some miners have expressed concern that after its use, mercury is improperly disposed of, which sometimes ends up in water streams and rivers. Water contaminated with mercury could affect the environment.

Soil suspected to have gold is placed in a basin of water and mixed with one bottle of mercury. Mercury attracts all the gold particles in the soil. During a recent conference to discuss the proposed amendment to the mining policy and act at Protea hotel organized by Eco Christian Organization and Action Aid Uganda, miners asked government to check the improper disposal of mercury to save the environment.

“In Buhweju, the gold deposits are located in water catchment areas and wetlands. Mercury is often improperly disposed of into wetlands. Many of our valleys have been washed down with mercury, which contaminates our water. It is a big challenge that needs to be addressed immediately,” one of the miners told participants.

Uganda: MPs want minerals to benefit local massesMembers of Parliament from across the political divide have backed proposals to amend the mining act and make strong provisions that would help local people get maximum benefit out of minerals.

Government is already in the process of reviewing the Mining Act 2004 and the mining policy after arguing that they do not reflect the current realities in the sector.

The lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction that while Uganda was endowed with several minerals, these minerals had not helped lift people out of poverty. The MPs were speaking at the mineral policy, law and fiscal review conference organized by Ecological Christian Organization and Safer World both (CSOs) at Protea hotel recently.

Lolem Micah Akasile, Upe county member of Parliament (Amudat district), wondered why despite being endowed with a lot of minerals, Karamoja continued to wallow in poverty.

“Karamoja is a tenth of Uganda’s land mass and we have a lot of minerals, but the reality is people have been exploited; people have not benefited,” he said.
Gulu Woman Member of Parliament Betty Acan, concurred.

Climate change: Vulnerability and community efforts to address impactsClimate change is one of the most hotly debated issues of today. In Uganda these changes are already influencing many systems essential for human livelihood, including water resources, food security and health. This causes a great challenge for sustainability of life, ecosystems, livelihoods and indeed the development of the economy.

Sadly, the biggest sections of the Ugandan populace are not pro-actively involved in activities that aim to address climate change phenomenon currently experienced in the country. Some of the individuals and groups involved in activities to address climate change effects do it with limited climate knowledge.

It is important now, more than ever, to involve all Ugandans in climate change debates and advocacy to ensure that all sectors of the society are climate sensitive and are involved in implementing climate-smart projects.

The government of Uganda is quietly exploring plans to buy back Bujagali dam, a major hydroelectricity project, from a consortium of private investors and developers in a move that would constitute a major reversal in public policy.

“The high cost of electricity in Uganda has reached unsustainable levels that are severely eroding local industries’ competitiveness and domestic consumers’ disposable income,” says a confidential brief seen by this newspaper that seeks to justify the buy-back.

By 2019 government of Uganda “will only control 8.75 per cent of the country’s electricity generation capacity, thus it will not be able to effectively impact the overall electricity tariffs that are currently spiralling out of control,” adds the brief.

Harrison Mutikanga, the head of the government-owned Uganda Electricity Generation Company, confirmed that discussions were ongoing to explore the viability of the proposal. Sparks fly over Umeme’s failure to supply power to businesses

Located on the River Nile near Jinja, the dam is owned by Bujagali Energy Ltd (BEL), a special-purpose vehicle owned in turn by Industrial Promotion Services, which is part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and SG Bujagali Holdings, an affiliate of Sithe Global Power, LLC, part of Blackstone, the US-based private-equity fund.