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Storm hits new port project

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Abraham ByandalaJoint project with Tanzania faces stiff resistance from community, other stakeholders

The government has contracted the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company to conduct a feasibility study for a new port at Bukasa in Wakiso District, but all is not well with the project as various stakeholders are reluctant to cooperate.

First conceived more than 40 years, the $3 billion project will be funded jointly by the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, which signed a memorandum of understanding in Dar es Salaam in June last year.  The project, which is part of a railway line to be constructed from Tanga in Tanzania to Kampala via Musoma port on Lake Victoria, is expected to open up the third gateway for Ugandan exports and imports to Indian Ocean to add to the Mombasa-Kampala railway and the Dar-Mwanza to Kampala.

However, the project is brewing a storm with at least 2,000 families anxious that they could be evicted to pave way for the project.

The site for the port is a peninsular land that connects the main land through Kirinnya Trading Centre before joining Kampala Jinja Highway at Kireka.

The concerned residents have been told they would be compensated adequately, but Suzan Kataike, the Ministry of Works publicist could not reveal the amount of money involved as the ministry is still consulting.

The ministry has identified 500 acres with some of the land lying in a wet land and a forest reserve, while the remaining 309 acres is privately owned and covers Bukasa Trading centre and the local community. The ministry must identify more land for the railway and road connection to Namanve Industry Park.

According to a preliminary survey report a copy of which The Independent has seen, part of the land includes a shooting training ground for the Army as well as a forest reserve managed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA). The team said they had a “heated exchange” with NFA officials who threatened to arrest them during the survey exercise.

According to the NFA, individual tree farmers on the NFA land would sue the forestry body if they are evicted without prior notice and adequate compensation.

NEMA said they could not have anything to do with the project until an environmental impact assessment has been carried out by the Ministry of Works.

Half of the project land lies in water and will need to be reclaimed, which “would definitely present environmental and social economic issues with potential legal or financial liability to the developer,” according to the report.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the area MP, said he knew little about the development but that civic leaders were to hold talks with officials from the Ministry of Works.

“I’m not yet sure but I think 2,000 families will be displaced by the project,” Ssemuju said.

Apparently, poor or lack of coordination among the various government departments involved could delay the project even further.

Local leaders in Bukasa are now living in panic saying they are getting threats from the community who are accused them of conniving with the government to grab their land.

Edward Bakkabulindi, the area LC 1 chairman, said locals saw officials from the Ministry of Works and suspiciously thought that they were going to grab their land. He said that they never gave the team a chance to explain what had brought them there as they threatened to lynch them.

More than 600 people derive their livelihoods from the project site where they engage in brick making, sand mining, fishing, transport among others.

Important project

The New Kampala Port at Bukasa is expected increase the volume of cargo as a new conventional container and multipurpose harbor has been recommended as per the memorandum of understanding between the two governments.

As the East African Community fires up, Uganda’s Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area business hub will be strategically located and is expected to cure the land locked barriers as the port will have links to the rail and the Kampala Northern By Pass.

The latter will facilitate movement of transit traffic to neighboring Rwanda, Southern Sudan and DR Congo. It is estimated that the new port will have the capacity to handle 1.5 million - 2 million tonnes of cargo.

Bukasa will be the third port in the country after Jinja pier and Port Bell at Luzira. Port Bell is connected by rail and a wagon ferry and has potential for expansion. Though the Jinja pier is far away from Kampala and the Kampala Business Industrial Park, its full capacity has not been realised. Port Bell in Luzira has the advantage of being nearer to Kampala, but its full potential has not been realized either. Analysts say expanding the existing ports would have made more economic sense than building a new one.

The development of the ports is a short term initiative to handle current traffic and speed up trade links to the Indian Ocean. The planned developments at the ports include the rehabilitation of a dry dock and remodeling of the port to handle containerized and general Cargo.

Officials said a detailed environmental and social impact assessment for the proposed project at Bukasa would be undertaken to critically evaluate its likely impacts and suggest mitigation measures.

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