Climate Change and Population Growth are to blame for Power Shortages and Economic Woes.
There is a modern-management-problem solving tool 5-WHY that is used to conduct comprehensive problem analysis. It aims at solving the problem not fixing the problem. For example, if a UMEME technician got electrocuted while working up an electric pole, the investigation team would take at least five steps back by asking the 5-Whys. Why did the technician get electrocuted? The possibilities could be he didn’t have safety wear, or the sub-station re-switched on power without notice. Then the next question would be Why was power re-switched on at the substation or why didn’t the technician have his safety wear on? The possibilities could be because there was no information at the substation indicating that a team was in the field doing some repair works. This 5-Why tool would help the investigation team to get to the root cause of the death incident by seeking answers on all possibilities, and in essence solve the problem not just fix the problem. This would form a basis for developing mitigation measures to prevent re-occurrence of such an incident.
It is this regard that we may want to be deeply reflective and analytical on the economic challenges upon us today. And unfortunately, our economic experts and technocrats have not been honest to communicate to us the root causes of the current economic turbulence that we face in Uganda. Governor Mutebile and team have indicated before, that supply shocks are to blame for the high inflation, implying we are unable to produce enough food for both the local and regional markets like South-Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya. One of the reasons blamed on the supply shocks is the prolonged dry-season mid-2010 that affected agricultural production in the country side. Unfortunately, that is as far they take it. On deeper reflection, Uganda’s current economic woes and energy/power outages are borne of the climate change and global warming phenomenon.
The State of the Environment Report for Uganda-2006/07, noted that population growth is cited as a major contributing factor to shortages of agricultural land, the loss of forests and wetlands, and poverty. Over 80 per cent of Ugandans rely directly upon land, agriculture, and fishing for their livelihoods, but environmental indicators reveal trends of degrading agricultural lands, soil erosion, deforestation, drainage of wetlands, loss of bio-diversity, reduced range land capacity, and increased pollution. So among other reasons it is clear that we won’t be able to boost our agricultural production if we do not address issues of population growth, access to land, modern farming technologies, irrigation and access to affordable credit and capital. Population growth pressures have also fanned the Climate Change and Global warming phenomenon.
The increased power costs and low power supply that economic experts predict will affect the business environment and drive up costs of production in the manufacturing and industrial sector can be traced to climate change. The long drought in 2005 affected the hydrology of Lake Victoria and thus affected the capacity of power plants to operate optimally and generate hydro power. Owen Falls Complex with installed capacity of 380MW is only able to generate 173MW because of low water levels. The shortfall in generation forced government and development partners to go for emergency power generation using heavy fuels generators managed by Aggreko, Jacobsen etc. This in effect pushed up the governments costs on subsidies and power generation. This subsidy cost, in excess of $200m per year thus presenting a tricky fiscal management challenge. It is on the basis of this bloated subsidy cost exacerbated by the depreciated shilling and high oil prices on the world market that government has been forced to scrap off these subsidies, thus worsening the already fragile economic environment that Uganda finds itself in.
We need to think of green economy and green development by tapping into green energy technologies e.g. solar energy and wind farms to power residential houses, small business, local administration centers etc. Electricity Regulatory Authority estimates the annual power demand growth to be at 10%. This high demand growth rate coupled with a high population growth of 3.2% (the third highest in the world) requires us to engage robust and pragmatic framework to tap into the rich sources of green energy in our midst. Agricultural production and farming also need to engage eco-friendly and sustainable technologies that improve production and protect the environment too. Climate Change and Global warming will not affect us tomorrow; they are already affecting us today.