KAMPALA. Driving or walking on the newly constructed roads in the city at night gives you a fair impression of the lighting system as street solar lights brightly shine, making the entire road visible to not only motorists but also pedestrians.
While using these well-lit roads, there are minimal chances of being attacked by thugs, or falling into a manhole.
Daily Monitor has learnt that at least 900 solar lights were procured and installed on several roads or streets in the city.
According to the new KCCA budget, the solar lights on the newly constructed roads cost Shs400m. Some of the city roads with solar lights include Makerere Hill Road, Kira Road, Kampala Road, Nile Avenue, Kabaka Anjagala Road and Bakuli-Kasubi Road, Kintu Road, Bombo Road, City Square, Jinja Road, Bahai, Speke, Lugoba, Wansano, Mutundwe and Entebbe Road, among others.
The roads are being constructed under the second Kampala Institutional Infrastructural Development Project (KKIDP-2), a five-year project funded by World Bank.
The contract to install city street solar lights was awarded to Zhenjiang Holley International, a Chinese company. The street lights are fitted with cameras to mitigate crime in the city.
They have the capacity to provide light for three days when charged.
However, when you either branch off the main road or street, or continue to other city suburbs, the bright lights diminish and you suddenly have to manoeuver through potholed-dark alleys or streets, causing a lot of anxiety.
Muggers and hooligans usually hide in these dimly lit places to rob unsuspecting people.
Although KCCA plans to install street solar lights across all the five divisions of the city, the plan could take long to be implemented because KCCA is cash-strapped hence many parts of the city are likely to remain in darkness for a long time.
“Why do we pay taxes if KCCA can’t fix the problem of traffic lights in Kampala? Most of the back streets around Kampala have no lights and this puts our lives and those of passengers at risk because we could be attacked by thugs any time since most times we use routes without lights,” says Saidi Nsubuga, a taxi driver.
KCCA’s director of public and corporate affairs, Mr Peter Kaujju, told Daily Monitor in an interview on Wednesday that whereas they are determined to install street solar lights on all city roads, they are short of funds.
“We chose to shift from LED bulbs to solar lights because they are more durable and sustainable. However, we still have LED bulbs on some streets and roads because we don’t have money to cover the entire city at once,” he said.
He revealed that KCCA spends at least Shs200m monthly on electricity bills to service the LED bulbs.
However, a spot-check carried out by this newspaper in all the five divisions of Kampala found out that majority of the bulbs are faulty, hence they cannot provide light.
For instance, some roads in the city centre with faulty street lights include Namirembe Road, Rashid Khamis Road, John Ssebaana Kizito Road, Mwanga II Road, Rubaga Road, and Gadaffi Road, all in Old Kampala.
Public places such as the Old and New Taxi parks, are grappling with the same challenges, hence putting the lives of passengers at risk.
Kimathi Avenue, in the city centre and opposite City Hall, the headquarters of KCCA, is not spared either, and so is the Parliamentary Avenue.
The situation is even worse in slums and city suburbs where the lives of the dwellers are at the mercy of criminals. But even some of the newly installed street solar lights have since gone off, making the problem even worse.
Some solar lights on Bombo Road, Kampala Road, Kibuli, Entebbe Road, Kyaggwe Road and Makerere University, are not functioning.
Mr Kaujju attributed this to thugs who he said vandalise the installations, steal bulbs and sell them cheaply in downtown Kampala.
However, he said contractors who are currently installing the street solar lights gave KCCA a guarantee, hence they would be responsible for the losses incurred.
Officials in KCCA’s engineering directorate intimated to Daily Monitor that it is currently hard for KCCA to meet costs of installing lights in the entire city because there are more competing priorities.
For instance, they said even the procurement of the recently installed lights almost failed due to a shortage of funds and fights over who to award the tender, a claim this newspaper could not verify.
KCCA’s proposed budget for 2018/19 was initially Shs479.9b but MPs on the Presidential Affairs Committee slashed it by Shs18.47b, bringing it down to Shs461.47b. This means that some of the projects envisaged by KCCA are likely to stall.
During council meeting at City Hall recently, councillors queried the extravagant expenditure by the technical team of the institution, something they said, causes funding challenges.
They were, for instance, concerned about Shs6b allocated to the executive director’s office for corporate affairs and other media related campaigns yet directorates such as physical planning had been allocated only Shs3b.
Mayors of divisions who spoke to this newspaper, accused KCCA of failure to make a follow-up on some street lights which are faulty.
Mr Ali Nganda Mulyanyama, the Makindye Division mayor, said out of 10 street light poles on a road in Makindye, only three are functioning.
“It’s a very big challenge in Makindye because thieves use this vaccum to rob people of their property. The street solar project is good but it might take long, hence KCCA’s directorate of engineering should fix the faulty LED bulbs as we wait for solar ones,” he said.
KCCA operations manager in the directorate of engineering and technical services, Dr Steven Jeremy Ntambi, told Daily Monitor recently that the installed solar lights have a capacity to light a distance of 30 metres.
“We are currently at the installation stage and after that, we shall go to the testing stage and finish up with the commissioning stage. Although some are already lit, we haven’t officially commissioned them,” he said.