Locals develop demarcated SGR land over delayed pay

The director of New Victory Primary School Mbiko, Mr Ernest Basalirwa Kasami, points at one of the  classroom blocks erected in the demarcated route for the SGR project on January 20, 2023. PHOTO | DENIS EDEMA

What you need to know:

  • Although some residents are hesitant to talk about the development, the village leaders say some developers are doing so after losing the hope of getting compensation.

The delayed compensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) in areas of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has forced some residents in the districts of Buikwe and Jinja to redevelop their land that had been demarcated for the project.

Eight years ago, the government unveiled a plan to build the country’s first phase of SGR, a 273km line from Malaba to Kampala at a tune of $2.2 billion. However, the project has been delayed.

A snap survey carried out by this paper in some of the villages in Buikwe District where the SGR route was demarcated reveals that some residents have constructed structures, a development that could further delay the works.

Although some residents are hesitant to talk about the development, the village leaders say some developers are doing so after losing the hope of getting compensation.

Mr Gerald Kasonzi, the chairperson of Model Farm Village in Njeru Town Municipal Council in Buikwe, said some of the residents claim their land is lying idle.

“The residents say their land has been idle for a long time and they need to have some projects [so sustain their livelihood] as they wait for the compensation,” he said.

Mr Felix Dradidi Agaba, the chairperson of Mpumudde West A Village in Jinja South Division, said the residents’ have given up on compensation.  “We cannot stop them [from redeveloping the land] since the land belongs to them,’’ he said.

Jinja North Division mayor Ayub Wabika said the delayed project has equally affected development plans for the area.

“We hear the challenge is lack of money [for compensation] and the search for a reliable contractor. We pray that both issues are sorted out early to ensure division projects are not affected,’’ he said.

But Mr Ernest Basalirwa Kasami, the director of New Victory Primary School, Mbiko, and one of the PAPs, said the SGR works will see the school surrender two acres of land.

“The project is long overdue and has disorganised our development plans. When the officials from SGR come to this area, they claim that we shall be compensated, but they don’t disclose the amount and the timeframe. This has left me in confusion. I have now risked and started developing a section of the land,” he said.

In an interview with this publication, Mr David Alele Mugabe, the SGR project communications officer, said the compensation process of PAPs is underway in some districts and that more than Shs100b had already been paid out.

“The compensation is going on and it is a very extensive process. We have already acquired 130kms of right-of- way from the districts of Tororo and Mayuge, which is critical,” he said without divulging the timeline for the compensation process of the other areas.

 Project route

The SGR project will pass through the districts of Tororo, Butaleja, Namutumba, Luuka, Iganga, Mayuge, Jinja, Buikwe, Mukono, Wakiso, and Kampala.

Daily Monitor has learnt that PAPs in Buikwe are likely to receive their compensation packages much earlier than those in Jinja due to the absence of a substantive district land board to submit property rates to the Chief Government Valuer for approval.

Mr Mugabe said they will only consider PAPs who have been re-assessed as guided.  “What we have done is reassess the main corridor land and station land. We have done so because the government has delayed to compensate people in Jinja, Buikwe, and Mukono,” he said.

Last year (2022), the Works and Transport minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, made a request to Parliament to support the funding of the compensation of PAPs by the SGR project.

According to the minister, the construction work for the SGR project is scheduled to commence in the Financial Year 2023/2024.

“I request that funds are found to complete the land acquisition. A right-of-way free of encumbrances is a requirement by the bank before securing the loan and any further delay in land acquisition could lead to an increase in compensation costs,” the minister told Parliament last year.

He further noted that up to five loan applications have been made to EXIM Bank of China since 2015, with responses made to issues raised by the bank on the project.  Gen Katumba said 4,700 acres of land are supposed to be acquired for the project with compensation costs for the mainline estimated at Shs581.7b for 10,696 PAPs.

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