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Buwate residents up in arms over illicit gas filling

Gas refilling. File photo

Buwate, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Residents of Buwate in Wakiso district say their lives are at risk because of what appears like an illicit gas refilling activity in a residential area.

They want the National Environment Management Authority to close the facility whose activity is carried out in a heavily guarded bungalow. They say apart from fear of explosion, the operation of the facility in the area emits smelly fumes during day and night.

In a letter to NEMA, the residents say in addition to being environmental and human rights threatening activities, the gas filling facility is in the borderline of the 220kv heavy Bujagali-Kawanda power lines.

One of the concerned residents, Brighton Aryampa says activities carried out in the fenced bungalow begun almost a year ago. He says it has been causing discomfort among residents due to the fumes that are emitted to the community at selected hours during day and night.

To their dismay, there is no poster or any form of signpost which indicates the company which is carrying out the activities in the area.  Aryamapa residents only see vehicles and motorcycles driving in and out with gas cylinders.

Dickens Kamugisha, also a resident in the same area says the activities are being done in violation of the provision of a National Environment Act which prohibits such activities from being carried out in residential areas.

Kamugisha adds that as a community, they are in fear considering that of recent, there have been many cases of gas and gas cylinders exploding leading to loss of lives.

Winters Nkangi, the LC I chairperson says that said property is owned by a one Kayongo who rented the premises to a tenant who turned it into a gas refiling centre. He revealed that the operator of the facility has also ignored written concerns by area authorities.

Letters according to Nkanji have on several occasions been thrown under the gate because he cannot be allowed access the premises.

“We don’t know this tenant but we have always seen armed guards. They listen to nobody. I have called the property owner to report to the village office and also ensure that such activities stop but he is yet to show up,” Nkangi told Uganda radio network.

He adds that they also reported the matter to the police and municipal authorities but all these efforts have been futile. Sources indicated that the facility is managed a former employee of Total who later begun a business of refilling gas. The gas is refilled in any type of gas cylinders on the market.

The residents say delivery and picking and packaging of empty liquefied gas cylinders is done at night or very early morning.

The National Environment Management Authority Executive Director Dr. Tom Okurut confirmed that having received different complaints.

Dr Okurut revealed that he has contacted the energy ministry to ascertain whether the facility in Buwate or any person or company was allowed to carry such activities.

“In any case we are to swing into action, issues of air and noise pollution have been raised and under our mandate. We cannot allow such activity to operate in a residential area. They are risking lives of people,” says Dr Okurut.

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