What you need to know:
- Thieves also vandalise manhole covers, which takes National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) a while to replace them.
- Other manholes are within shops and residential houses, making it difficult for NWSC to access them for repair.
Leaking sewers are a common sight in Mbale City and its surrounding areas due to frequent drainage bursts, which is hazardous to the environment and residents.
Daily Monitor has learnt that the problem is partly due to unplanned construction of buildings on sewer lines.
Thieves also vandalise manhole covers, which takes National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) a while to replace them.
Other manholes are within shops and residential houses, making it difficult for NWSC to access them for repair.
Traders in Mbale Taxi Park have been experiencing the problem for a long time despite pledges by leaders to improve waste management and protect the environment.
“During the reign of Mr Zandya [Mutwalibi], we thought the problem would be handled but nothing happened until he was voted out,” Mr Ayub Wamboya, a taxi driver, said.
Mr Mutwalibi, who was the mayor of Mbale Town, now city, for two terms, lost the seat to Mr Cassim Namugali of Forum for Democratic Change.
Mr Wamboyo urged the new leadership to rehabilitate the old sewer pipes.
“These leaking sewers are a serious health hazard to us and to the image of this new city. Unfortunately, our leaders are not concerned like we are,” he said.
Residents accuse the council of leasing lockup spaces in taxi and bus parks to developers who constructed on top of sewage lines. The affected line runs through the parks to Maluku drive and drains into Doko sewerage ponds.
Ms Juliet Nafuna, a businesswoman, accused council officials of conniving with land grabbers to build houses on sewer lines and drainage systems.
“There are mushrooming buildings with no approval plans and these are posing sewage management challenges,” she said.
According to the Water Act, buildings are supposed to be at least four metres away from water and sewerage lines.
Mr Ivan Gidudu, an elder, said the physical planning committee has been reluctant in stopping illegal structures.
“There are big gaps in the physical planning committee. Something needs to be done,” Mr Gidudu said.
“The sanitary lanes should be left untampered with, but this is not the case. I request people who have encroached on the sewer lines to be arrested and face the law,” he said.
Mr Alfred Mafabi, a vendor, said several lockups constructed at the bus terminal have narrowed the space for vehicles.
“Sanitary lanes are designed to provide leeway for service vehicles such as delivery and garbage collection trucks, fire brigade, among others, but all that is in jeopardy,” he said.
The Mbale City deputy speaker, Mr Abdullah Magambo, tasked the city planning authority to verify all building plans with all stakeholders.
“The construction of illegal structures on the sanitary lanes and sewer lines frustrates efforts to combat fire outbreaks in case of emergencies,” he said.
The Mbale NWSC manager, Mr Badru Wandwasi, acknowledged the problem, saying: “Building on sewer lines is a big challenge when sewer lines get blocked, it becomes difficult for us to maintain them because we can’t access networks.”
Mr Wandwasi said they plan to meet city authorities on how to enforce discipline during construction.
“Under normal circumstances, when development is coming up, the city planning authorities should work with NWSC to guide where we have the utilities,” Mr Wandwasi said.
He, however, said a World Bank project is in the pipeline to expand and upgrade the water supply and sewerage system.
“Once that project comes in, we shall expand and make additional lines,” he said.
Mbale City Council spokesperson James Kutosi said they resolved to approve construction of any structure in the city, and tasked each stakeholder to play their part.
“Laying of the sewer line is the responsibility of the NWSC, while drainage system is for the city authorities,” he said.
Mr Steven Masiga, the researcher on urban administration, said there are many solutions to the problem, including shifting the sewerage lines, or transporting the sewerage through modern underground tunnels.
“The city council can also pay off those who have constructed on sewerage lines but this has constraints because the council has no ready cash to pay off the bonafide developers,”Mr Masiga said.