By Our Reporter
Katonga: The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, has called for an emergency bridge on River Katonga along the Kampala-Masaka Highway until the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) constructs a new one.
According to Mr Mpuuga, the provisional arrangement will in meantime support the transport of persons and light merchandise.
He made the statement during his on-spot assessment of roads on Monday, 15 May 2023 that were affected by the flooding of River Katonga.
Hon. Mpuuga started his visit at the main bridge along the highway, in Mpigi district which caved in on Thursday, 11 May 2023. Thereafter, he inspected the damaged bridge that connects Gomba to Kalungu district along the Villa-Maria, Kyamulibwa- Kabulasoke Road.
Here, the bridge was washed away a week prior and travelers now use canoes to connect from one side to another. The LOP, accompanied by several members of his cabinet, ended his visit in Ssembabule district.
Following the flooding of River Katonga and the eventual damage visited on the bridge by ravaging storm waters, travelers from Kampala, the capital city, were advised to use the Mpigi-Butambala-Ssembabule Road as an alternative, while those from Masaka were asked to use the Masaka-Ssembabule Road.
“It is very unfortunate, the damage has greatly affected the local and national economy because this being a highway, it is a gateway to almost five neighbouring nations. Trade has been interfered with and movement of people…school children, persons going to hospital across Kayabwe… generally the general way of life of the community has been interfered with,” said Hon. Mpuuga.
He said that alternative routes were not prepared for this kind of traffic and noted that the old bridge could have been built with substandard technology.
“If you look at the bars of the broken bridge…clearly there was a lot of compromising done. But I hope it is a huge lesson to engineers in UNRA as well as the environmentalists. This particular problem was just about to happen…it is only that it took a bit longer,” Mpuuga said.
He recounted a decision made in the 10th Parliament advising government to halt rice growing and limit excavation of sand in Lwera.
“The interference with the eco-system could have been stopped long time ago. We all know that people mining sand in Lwera have no restoration or decommissioning programme to restore the environment. The rice growers are expanding…interfering with the eco-system and nature is fighting back,” he added.
Hajjat Aisha Nakirijja, the Vice Chairperson, Mpigi District Local Government, expressed concern about the damaged bridge saying that markets for traders within the community are no longer accessible and that health facilities, like Nkozi hospital and Masaka referral hospital cannot be accessed by several people.
Fenekansi Sserwadda, the Kilyamenvu Village Local Council 1 chairperson also said that the 48 kilometre Villa-Maria, Kyamulibwa- Kabulasoke Road is key in transportation of the sick and goods from Masaka and that the current route through Ssembabule is longer, hence making it expensive for the locals to move goods to markets.
UNRA has assured the public that emergency repair works on the damaged bridge along the highway will take about three weeks.
The shadow ministers that accompanied the LOP included Hon. Yusuf Nsibambi (Works and Transport), Hon. Hilary Kiyaga (Culture and Performing Arts), Betty Naluyima (Local Government), Joyce Bagala (Information and Anti-Corruption), Gorreth Namugga (Science, Innovation and Communication Technology), Fortunate Nantongo (Gender, Labour and Social Development), Helen Nakimuli (Animal Industry and Fisheries), Francis Katabaazi (East African Community Affairs) and Kyamuswa County MP, Moses Kabuusu.