KAMPALA –The snail pace in the implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway – SGR project is a result of inadequate funding – the Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala revealed in a meeting on Thursday.
Katumba disclosed that the situation had affected pre-construction activities such as land acquisition and compensation of Project-Affected-Persons -PAPs during the first phase of the Malaba-Kampala SGR project.
Gen Katumba led his ministry officials on Thursday in meeting the Committee on Physical Infrastructure under chairmanship of Robert Kasolo.
Eng Alfred Obong – the Construction Manager, SGR told the committee that whereas the acquisition of right of way for the SGR project was on-going – the process was ‘very slow’ due to what he termed as ‘small budgets.’
“The plan right from 2016 has been to use at least 60 per cent of the releases to the project on compensation of PAPs. However, this has not been possible because of the reduction in the approved budgets and the subsequent releases to the project over the financial years,” said Obong.
The entire right of way from Tororo-Kampala was demarcated and gazetted in 2015 at a total land compensation cost estimate of Ugx584.90b to be paid to 10,676 PAPs beneficiaries.
However, for the last eight financial years, only Ugx188.38b has been released for the SGR project out of the approved total budgets of Ugx443.49b of which Ugx99.34b was spent to pay PAPs.
According to Obong, acquisition of right of way remains an obstacle in areas of Jinja but he was optimistic that it would be solved before the end of this financial year due to the on-going reassessments and re-evaluations.
Draft reports show that in Jinja alone – the ministry requires Ugx115b to compensate 1,600 PAPs for the 5.64km main station and 10.05km corridor for the project.
The ministry is drumming up support from Parliament to appropriate adequate funds to ensure timely compensation of PAPs to pave way for the construction that is expected to start next financial year.
“Even if the construction will take time, we must have the right of way from at least Jinja up to Tororo so that the contractor is engaged as we finalise the last leg from Jinja to Kampala in terms of compensation,” said Katumba.
Mawokota South MP, Yusuf Nsibambi urged the minister to ensure timelines are set and met to compensate PAPS.
“We need to fix timelines on when these projects will be completed. You are giving us a lot of hope but we are not seeing the future…but indeed we have to join hands to ensure that funds are available,” promised Nsibambi.
In 2008, the Heads of State of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan agreed to interconnect their respective countries with an SGR network under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects –NCIP framework and this culminated in the signing of the SGR Protocol in 2014.
Uganda is in a phased manner expected to construct the 272km Malaba-Kampala route; 762km Tororo-Gulu-Nimule-Pakwach route; 383km Kampala-Bihanga-Kasese-Mpondwe route; and another 280km Bihanga-Mirama Hills-Muko route.
The SGR project is projected to reduce the cost of transport, enhance regional competitiveness and attract foreign direct investments, which would lead to higher economic growth and faster transformation.