No compensation money for Kampala residents near pylons

Tuesday August 13 2019

Pylons pass through a garden in Wakiso

Pylons pass through a garden in Wakiso District. Last year, Mbalala witnessed damage requiring restoration costs worth Shs2b after five towers fell from loss of stability due to vandalised metal bars. FILE PHOTO 

By Christine Kasemiire

A fuel station in Nateete right after the traffic lights as you head to Mutundwe, stands in the pathway of an electricity line.
Should that tower collapse onto the fuel station, there will be a huge property damage under its path.
Years before the Land Act of 1998 clearly described and provided for ownership of land, government did not pay to set up electricity structures.
In the reigns of Uganda Electricity Board, the structures were erected with mere verbal consent between government and the occupant of the land.
Today, these pole towers, erected by the transmission segment of the electricity supply chain are cuddled by wet clothes begging to dry, art pieces and rubbish to rot.
Through Kampala including Bugolobi near the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited offices at the Lugogo substation, you will see property and houses constructed either directly next to or under the steel pylons filled with electric charge.
“Buzz,” the power lines emit this sound.
Government has at different occasions mentioned mammoth amounts of money in the resettlement action plan during construction of a transmission lines, yet people in Kampala live and operate next to these towers.
Ms Pamela Byoruganda, principle public relations officer, UETCL explains that encroachment on the electricity structures in Kampala is mainly on the old lines because government does not own that land.
“Those lines were constructed before the land law changed. By then, land belonged to government,” she says.
“They would ask the person staying in that land for easements to erect a tower; they never acquired titles for that land,” she explains.
Over the years, occupants of the land passed on, as development also took shape.
Without a title, government did not have the right to chase away developments mushrooming around the towers.

Uncompensated lines
Currently, four lines with a 132 kilovolt charge are not compensated, meaning government has no power over the surrounding settlements.
They include; Nalubaale -Mulago, Masaka-Mbarara, Nalubaale - Tororo and Mutundwe- Kabulasoke.

No resettlement in mind
Responding to whether government has any plans to resettle or compensate those living next to the power structures, Ms Byoruganda affirms there is no money for that.
“As a line construction project ends, so does the funding for it because resettlement plans and construction come as a package. The old lines were constructed then and we do not have the money now to resettle people. It would require government to inject in money, which is not in plan,” she explains.
Land is currently a very expensive commodity especially in Kampala and the likelihood of people abandoning land due to electricity risks is close to none.
According to the annual crime report 2018, 478 cases of land fraud were recorded by the police.

Proximity to the pylons, UETCL avers incites vandalism of the structures.
Last year, Mbalala witnessed damage requiring restoration costs worth Shs2b after five towers fell from loss of stability due to vandalised metal bars.
A black out enveloped the whole country.
Mr Stephen Ilungole, Umeme’s manager public and media relations, says there are no accurate statistics of cases related to electricity. This is because they are sometimes concealed by relatives of the victims for fear of reprimand.
“Most of the victims are illegal users with dangerous connections and those tampering with the network or vandalising it to steal materials, underground cables, conductors, transformers among others. All these are criminal cases which would lead to imprisonment,” he says.
The police in 2018 registered 33 cases of electrocution.

Land divisions
Land required by UETCL for towers is divided into right of way and way leaves. Right of way, usually 5 metres, is the land where the tower sits which is fully compensated.
Way leaves vary depending on different voltages of the lines, for instance, a 132kV line needs 12.5 metres from both directions of the tower, making a total of 30 metres required for the whole structure.
However, some activities are permitted under the way leaves corridor such as planting crops but not so tall trees.