HOW TO HARNESS SIPI FALLS POTENTIAL WITHOUT ‘TOUCHING’ IT!

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For the fourth time in four years, I visited Sipi Falls and stayed in the expensive hotel across the falls. The whole evening it rained and I had nothing to do. I sat on the verandah drinking some beer and sipping cupfuls of the Mbale coffee.  And I drank in the magnificent sight of the falls, a masterpiece of an extravaganza. I gazed in wonder as the tiny streak of water lingered in falling the thousands of millimetres down below. There was so much love with nature that the water turned into cold steam.

I could see a great open cave behind where the falls land, needing cover. I painted a picture of the falls acting as a cloth that won’t cover the nakedness of a beautiful woman. And I chuckled at my stupidity or rich imagination. I felt that this stupefied beautiful daze should continue endlessly.

Suddenly, I realized that a bitter quarrel was in earnest progress. The sponsors were seated on the table next to mine! A huge man with a white moustache, seething with anger, shouted, “There is no way you so-called engineer can harness this Sipi Falls for hydropower without ‘killing the goose that lays the egg. You will kill this place as a tourist attraction spot!”

The engineer, thoroughly agitated and hurt at this belittlement, bellowed: “Using science, technology and innovation, it can be done, you nitwit! You have blindly lived here and failed to tame nature and improve your livelihood. Now keep quiet and I explain!”

As he rumbled some stuff that his colleague-in-arms was rubbishing, something tickled my brain, that this engineer was right. My mind of a journalist moved my brain into a higher gear of tank-thinking on the what, where, when, why and how to harness the Sipi Falls potential without touching it. Trained to listen and write, I paid the utmost attention to the short engineer as he battled to gain audience with the shouting huge man.  And I heard him say:

“The Sipi Falls EXTRAVAGANZA idea needs the minds of a combination of the old and experienced civil and structural engineers, dam designers and specialists of all kinds, let alone to concretize the dream”.

Suddenly my mind clicked and I saw it all.

There it was, the good old Sipi Falls, intact, except for a great flat and open concrete pavement that was at the foot of the falls. The place could seat about 200 guests! There were the big umbrellas and revellers sitting, sipping and sightseeing the falls right above. But then I beheld! More of them were looking down at another man-made falls that had been created a distance below. There was a signpost reading, “Sipi Falls Extravaganza”.

It was a marvel to behold, a ninth world wonder!  I asked the engineer to take me for a walk down to the falls and explain the wonder.

The slab of the cossy open restaurant was built at the foot of the falls using a high grade of class 60. Beneath the slab was a massive vessel that was supported by both valleys and the concrete structure. The vessel contained enough water to pour out and create two times the volume of the original Sipi Falls for eight hours! “What is the magic with the figure 8?” I asked the engineer. He said that 8 times 3 was 24 and 24 was the number of hours in one night. He explained further that for eight hours when Kapchorwa and its environs needed power most, a hydropower station which was innovatively located between the falls below and the water vessel generated twice the amount of electricity as would have been generated by the old Sipi Falls above.

At first, I failed to understand the logic. Then the good engineer slowly but surely explained how the Sipi Falls potential was harnessed to produce both power and a better tourism site! In sheer excitement, I banged my forehead. And then I woke up to find the quarrelling party were actually fighting. A thrown bottle had locked onto my head and by force it had woke me up. Bleeding, I left to piece down this story.

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