Residents of Kiruhura District have raised environmental concerns over roadworks due to start on the 208kilometre Nyakahita-Ibanda –Fort Portal Road.
Government has contracted Chinese Communication Construction Company (CCCC) to tarmack the road from Lyantonde through Rushere town, Kiruhura Town Council, Nyamambo and Kazo towns to Ibanda, Kamwenge and Kabarole districts.
The firm has started assembling machines on the site.
At Rugonji Valley Dam, located few kilometres from Kiruhura District headquarters, towards Kazo, the road construction machines are roaring, razing down shrubs around the rock to be blasted.
The dam is between two raised areas. On one side, about 300 metres from the dam, CCCC is levelling a piece of land where to crush the rocks, and has just flattened a patch on the opposite side of the dam land which was “procured” from Kiruhura District local government to establish an operation station.
However, instead of celebrating the road development that would give them quick, cheap and dust-free access to other areas as they market their produce, residents of Kenshunga Sub-county and Kiruhura Town Council are cursing.
They say the road construction has polluted the dam and that when works progress there will be more effluence and consequently the drying up of the valley dam, the only permanent source of water that supports hundreds of homesteads and over 30,000 livestock in this semi-arid area.
“Why has the government allowed the road constructors to destroy our dam like this? They are going to crush the rock and dust and stones will be spilling into the dam,” Patrick Gumisiriza, a resident, told Daily Monitor recently. What has happened to our leaders? There are many rocks along this road and many people are willing to sell them why did they have to go for this near our dam.”
Preparations in gear
Daily Monitor’s visit ascertained that CCCC is preparing the quarry on the edge of the dam. The company bought the ‘rock’ from Adrian Kikooko, a resident.
Residents also fear CCCC will be drawing a lot of water from the poorly maintained dam, to wet crushed stones and road surface.
And worse still, CCCC has erected workers’ residence and machines yard about 20 metres from the dam and high heaps of soil are hanging close to the dam that residents fear it will it get deposited into the water source.
There is one pitlatrine in a community of over 200 people and the residents neighbouring the site say construction firm workers have been using the bush around as place of convenience.
Kiruhura Town Council chairman Manasseh Buhamba said the toilet has just been built with grudging acceptance and the council is pushing CCCC to build more.
Rugonji Dam like many others was constructed in 1940s by the then Nyabushozi County Chief Anania Murumba to help cattle keepers lead a settled life.
During the dry season, individual people’s dams dry up in this cattle corridor and they move their cattle to water them from this dam while others carry water from the dam to their farms.
“They would rather stop and we live with our dusty road. Water is life, when the dam is gone our lives and those of our cows are gone,” said another resident who preferred anonymity said.
Mr Moses Karamuzi, the LC5 Councillor for Kiruhura town council said he has complained to the Chief Adminstrative Officer (CAO) about the adverse impact of the project on the dam and people’s concerns but is yet to get answers.
“I have put my complaint to the CAO because they never communicated to the council. Was the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done? Environmental bodies should help us. They used community land but were the procurement rules followed?” he asked.
But the CAO, William Kanyesigye said CCCC hired the piece of land from the district for three years, but he never disclosed what amount was paid. Mr Kanyesigye added that only district council executive members executed the land deal because the council is suspended until after elections.
On the environmental concerns, Mr Kanyesigye referred Daily Monitor to the district Environment Officer, Mr Enock Tumwine.
“It is not in the interest of the district to harm the dam but in pursuit of development the dam has to be harmed,” Mr Tumwine said.
He added that the EIA has to be done before they begin blasting. “NEMA has to approve what they are going to do. We ask them to restrict run off into the dam. We know there will be dust pollution but they can use wet blasting much as it is expensive,” he said.
A site manager who identified himself only as Zang speaking through Ben Ndungu –a foreman, referred Daily Monitor to district officials for any information on environmental impact and the land acquisition in regard to the project.