Oil roads construction: Hoima residents cry foul over damage caused by rock blasting
At least 400 houses in 10 villages have been destroyed by rock blasting in Kigorobya County, Hoima district. PAPs want compensation for their destroyed property.
“When government started constructing our road, I was excited. I know, it is going to open up our area. However, this rock blasting has affected us
negatively. You see, my house has developed cracks due to waves from the blasting. It is like an earthquake. I live in fear that one day it can collapse on us,” 67 years old Alice Birungi told Oil in Uganda. “When the Chinese blast the rocks during the day, sometimes I have nightmares of the blasts at night. The waves are too much,”. She added.
Alice is one of the over 400 households affected by excessive blasting of a rock in Kyakasato village, Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima district by CICO Ltd, a Chinese company constructing the Hoima – Biiso – Wanseko road which is one of the critical oil roads.
In a meeting organised by Global Rights Alert – a civil society organisation, residents complained of the excessive damage rock-blasting has caused to their properties mainly houses. CICO Ltd according to residents, started blasting the rock to get aggregates for constructing the road last year.
John Mary Amanyire, the LC I Chairman of Kyakasato explains that there are many residents whose houses have been destroyed due to rock blasting and yet they have not been compensated. “The company (CICO Ltd) only compensated households within the 500 metre radius, anyone outside that radius has not been compensated. But people’s houses have been destroyed. They too should be compensated,” he said.
According to residents, rock blasting has not only affected Kyakasato but 9 other villages including Bukona, Haibale I & II, Ndaragi, Kigorobya II, Kikonkona, Kikwanana, Kabatindure and Hanga.
On April 23, David Karubanga the area Member of Parliament who is also the Minister of State for Public Service wrote to the Executive Director, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) seeking action for the 400 hundred structures which had been damaged by stone blasting. However, UNRA is yet to respond to the MP and residents’ demand.
Lydia Tukwasibwe, a UNRA sociologist on the construction of Hoima – Biiso – Wanseko revealed that by compensating people within the 500 metre radius, the contractor was following guidelines issued by NEMA. “According to the policy [guidelines] only those within the 500 metre radius are eligible to be compensated,” She explained. She also added that the matter will be solved by their bosses.
Kadir Kirungi, the district Chairman of Hoima attributes the problem to unrealistic guidelines by NEMA. “I cannot blame the contractor because the contractor is purely following the guidelines which were issued by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). I am only wondering how NEMA could issue guidelines without any form of assessment,” he said. Kirungi wants NEMA to review the 500 metres radius policy.
Only 78 households within the 500 metre radius have been compensated. However, according to a preliminary assessment conducted by the area MP, at least 400 houses including 3 schools and 2 churches have developed cracks due to blasting and should be compensated.
“Communities outside the 500 metre radius have also been affected, their houses have cracks and we cannot leave this matter untouched. Developent in terms of the roads should come to make people better and not to supress them,” Kirungi said.
The affected residents have further petitioned the district council for an intervention. In a letter dated July 22, 2019, Isingoma Nathan Kitwe, the Hoima district speaker wants clarification from CICO Limited. “I have received a petition in my office signed by 270 persons affected by excessive rock blasting by CICO in Kyakasato village, Kigorobya sub-county. This is therefore to invite you to my office for clarity before I present the petition to Council for discussion,” Isingoma Kitwe wrote. He added, “As you are aware that we need roads and we thank government for the all the endeavours to construct good roads for the people. However, human health and safety should be given first priority,”
by: Edward Ssekika,
Edited by Muhumuza Didas