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Will new guidelines be tested at Bujugali in Uganda?

Scandinavian aid agencies may find that their support for the World Commission on Dams and its final recommendations are put to the test with the Bujugali hydro project in Uganda.

Bujugali is the first hydro power scheme to be considered by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (NORAD) since the release of the WCD report in November 2000. SIDA and NORAD were both financial contributors to WCD’s work.

The Scandinavian countries will not be the only countries to support the Ugandan project. Reports suggest that Italy, Finland and Switzerland are also expected to contribute. The bulk of financing, however, is likely to come from the World Bank. Criticism of Bujugali is headed by the International Rivers Network (IRN), which claims the dam will not bring power to the rural poor and that it involves significant risks for affected people. IRN is demanding that donors evaluate Bujugali against the new WCD guidelines.

Sweden will be making an independent investigation of the project but Norway will rely on World Bank studies. A spokesperson from NORAD says the agency does not intend to carry out detailed investigations of the project as it will not be funding the project directly. However, should controversial issues be uncovered in the World Bank’s environmental assessment of the scheme, NORAD will then initiate an independent assessment.