A new structure plan to turn Arua into a model eco-tourism city has been unveiled, highlighting preservation of nature while simultaneously stimulating economic vibrancy by tapping into opportunities at the strategic border location.
The plan is proposed to be implemented on the 700-acre Barifa land, a central forest reserve on the town’s eastern outskirt that Arua Municipal Council is seeking to de-gazette.
Planned clearance of the forest has been hindered by the municipal council’s inability to prepare a structure plan and carry out related environmental impact assessments as required by the National Forest Authority.
Municipal officials already bought a larger tract of alternative land in Logiri to relocate Barifa forest, a pre-condition for de-gazettement.
The new land use plan, which is still a subject of public consultation, has been prepared by Joadah Capital Infrastructure Partners; a business consortium owned by Eng. Joel Aita of Joadah Consults and DMA Capital Group’s chief executive Dennis Aliga.
Both consultants hail from Arua and say they did the structure plan and the required EIA for free as their contribution to the town’s expansion. This would have cost the municipality an estimated Shs500m.
Presenting the plan’s business case during a public consultation in Kampala recently, Mr Aliga said they project the land in Barifa forest, if de-gazetted, could yield at least 2,000 commercial plots.
And if each plot is sold at Shs30m, the municipal would rake in Shs60b.
The money, Mr Aliga said, would be sufficient to open and tarmac a 37-kilometre road, including double-lane stretches, provide electricity, piped water and broadband internet in the envisaged satellite city.
Total overhead infrastructure and utilities costs are estimated at Shs50 billion. Arua Municipality MP Gabriel Aridru, who is the junior minister-designate for Investment, lauded the initiative, stressing transparency and strict enforcement for successful implementation.
“This concept has worked elsewhere. Ensure the planning standards are kept and what has been agreed is adhered to,” Mr Aridru said.The structure plan provides land for commercial/office premises, an income-patterned residential neighbourhood, recreation area which retains Barifa stadium, a waste treatment plant and a green belt as well as a zoo area, where Uganda Wildlife Authority has reportedly agreed to establish a learning centre for northern region.
Tension. There has been tension in Arua over Barifa forest after Gen. Salim Saleh ‘irregularly’ occupied six acres of the prime land, where he is already erecting structures.
Taking action. The executive director of National Forest Authority, Mr Micheal Mugisa, said the general applied to undertake eco-friendly activities in the forest but the process has not been concluded. Police a Friday blocked a demonstration organised by MP Bernard Atiku over the land.