Environment groups have condemned President Yoweri Museveni’s order to allow an investor to build a golf course in Uganda’s biggest national park, saying it would disturb wildlife and hit tourism.
Museveni earlier this month told the state-run Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to allow the Madhvani Group to build the golf course and a swimming pool in Murchison Falls National Park, which straddles the River Nile.
Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for the east African economy which attracted about 800,000 foreign tourists in 2009, data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics shows.
“Uganda has laws that clearly describe what investment projects can be undertaken in nature reserves,” Frank Muramuzi, executive director of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), told Reuters.
Museveni rejected UWA objections to the project, saying there was no evidence the facilities would harm the park’s ecosystem and they would draw more visitors to the park.
“These laws do not permit projects like golf courses. It is outrageous that a president should be violating the law in such a brazen manner,” Muramuzi said.
The 3,800 sq km park has populations of antelopes, chimpanzees, elephants, birds, lions and leopards.
UWA had argued large numbers of people in one area would scare animals and escalate poaching while the buildings and fences would disrupt natural movement patterns.
Muramuzi said NAPE would send a petition to Museveni to reverse the order and would sue the government if he ignored them. Kenneth Kakuru, executive director of Greenwatch Uganda, said Museveni’s order was illegal and should be fought in court.
The Madhvani Group was not able to provide an immediate response when contacted.
In 2006, plans by Madhvani for a golf course in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda’s second biggest, provoked outrage and UWA stopped the plan.