BY AMBROSE GAHENE
The recently commissioned Isimba Bridge in Kayunga district is expected to spur economic development to the residents and Uganda at large, according to government officials and technocrats. The new bridge is being counted on for development, with farmers saying it brings relief to the business community, especially those dealing in cereals such as maize and fruits.
This follows confirmation by Lawrence Pario, the Head of Bridges and Structures at Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), that the bridge is ready.
“It was completed on December 29, but we are awaiting further guidance to commission or allow the public to use it,” he said.
The project is expected to reduce traffic on the Kampala-Jinja highway, provide an alternative (shorter) route from Kamuli to Kampala via Kayunga and between Kampala to Teso sub-region through Bukungu ferry.
It also aims at boosting trade, agriculture, employment, tourism in Kayunga and Kamuli and subsequently transforming them into food baskets.
Robert Mugiti, the chairperson Kamuli Pineapple and Watermelon Vendors’ Association, said they do not expect any more delays in transporting their fruits from Kamuli to Bugerere, Kayunga and Kampala.
“We were hindered by the ferry, which often delayed to get filled up by passengers or sometimes developed mechanical problems, leaving it grounded at a time when traders wanted to transport their produce. So, the bridge comes as a great relief,” Mugiti said.
He added that when water levels rose or when the ferry was grounded, several farmers lost their produce.
Sam Lugendo, the LC3 chairperson Mbulamuti sub-county, hailed the development as a major transport and communication asset that will open up Mbulamuti, Kamuli and other areas to safe travels anytime.
He said travellers had been forced to use the long Jinja route for fear of not finding the ferry operating, while others opted for night or early morning canoes which are risky.
Taxi and lorry drivers plying the Kamuli-Kampala route via Mbulamuti say the bridge will now help them beat traffic jam and increase the number of routes they make to Kampala.
Farouk Isabirye, a taxi operator, said passengers often complained of delays in crossing as they often got to the shore when the ferry has just crossed to the other side.
“This is going to be our best route because it is shorter, convenient and helps beat the Kampala traffic jam. The Mbale-Soroti taxis will find this route better and our time of waiting at the ferry is no more,” he said.
The bridge is part of the 183MW Isimba Hydro Power Plant and Isimba-Bujagali Interconnection Project, which was initially supposed to be on the dam like at Jinja.
ABOUT THE BRIDGE
The project involved construction of two bridges and a 3.5-kilometre access road at $567.8m with funding from the Ugandan government (15%) and a loan from Exim Bank (85%). Bridge I is 433 metres long and bridge II is 457.5 metres long. Both are 11.5 metres wide, each with two 1.5metre-walkways and two motor vehicle traffic lanes.
Pario said one can enjoy a spectacular view of Isimba power dam with water falls and also watch monkeys and birds on Koova Island. He added that the bridges will be lit at night using auxiliary power from Isimba Power Dam.
In a Statehouse statement, seen by District Focus, President Museveni, while commissioning the bridge said: “For the last 25 years, I have visited the whole of Uganda to sensitize you about each one’s responsibilities (Lubimbi). I told Ugandans that there are responsibilities of government and those of individual Ugandans. Everything we have been building including bridges, hospitals, power stations like Isimba, the road from Mukono-Kangulumira-Jinja are government responsibilities. It is good that you are happy about what the government has done. But as individuals, you have your own responsibilities including fighting household poverty”.
The President, in addition said; for the last 30 years, he has been trying to sensitize Ugandans against working for the stomach alone, but also for an income using infrastructure that the government has put in place to improve their livelihoods.
“There are four things that you must do; fight household poverty. Secondly keep yourself healthy by avoiding HIV/AIDS, Coronavirus, alcohol and irresponsible lifestyles. Thirdly, keep peace, do not riot and disrupt your country. Lastly, support the NRM government because all these developments have happened because of it,” he said.
The President said the Bbale-Ggalilaya road will also be worked on. He used the bible story of Jesus and his disciples who panicked during a storm when He fell asleep.
“When He woke up, he said you of little faith…” do not have little faith, we shall work on that road. You remember the Mukono-Kayunga-Kangulumira-Jinja road was old, we renovated it and you witnessed. The one of Jinja was also renovated. The road to Mukono-Katosi-Nyenga-Mukono-Jinja is now complete. Even this will be done. Don’t have little faith like those disciples,” he said.
The President also said there would be another bridge from Sezibwa connecting to Buruli.
The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) executive director, Allen Kagina, said the bridge is able to accommodate all kinds of traffic including double-container trailers which the Mbulamuti ferry could not accommodate.
“The previous challenges encountered using a ferry including the increasing water levels of River Nile have now been solved. By using the new Isimba Public Bridge, the usual route to Kamuli and eastern Uganda via Jinja will be significantly shortened by two hours. We now anticipate that transportation costs and travel time will be considerably reduced,” she said.
The President commissioned the newly refurbished Kayunga 300-bed capacity hospital. The Government secured sh70b to renovate and expand the hospital including the expansion and renovation of the old buildings and construction of an emergency department, administration block, theatre, out and in-patient wards, 130 staff houses, sewage lagoon, laboratories, radiology, pharmacies and a blood bank.
Economic benefits of the bridge and dam
Before the dam, this part of the Nile River brought tourists to its waterfalls and wildlife. Visitors came to see red-tailed monkeys and endangered pangolins, among others.
At the official launch of the dam, officials acknowledged choosing 183 megawatts of clean power over access to water and natural beauty.
“It has been a delicate balance for the government,” said Simon Kasyate, the spokesman of the Uganda Electricity Generating Company.
“Where someone walked with their little jerrycan and fetched water off a stream, now you have got a reservoir which is a lake. Where someone simply walked through and crossed to visit their kith and kin across the river, now we have a hydropower station that has its own restrictions because of the safety precautions that we put around,” Kasyate said.