Jinja – Lives of Thousands of People in Busoga and the neighbouring Districts could be at risk as developers continue to encroach on the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) land reserve that is earmarked for future expansion.
It should be noted that the 1997 Water Act, vests power to the corporation on protected zones. Subject to section 91, an authority may (a) establish a protected zone on land adjacent to (I) any water, borehole, treatment or other works forming part of a water supply or from which a water supply is drawn; or (ii) any sewer, sewage treatment works or outfall; and prohibit activities within the protected zone, as it sees fit.
It should be noted that the Jinja service area covers the whole of Jinja both the City and the District. Some parts of Buikwe (Njeru &Lugazi Municipality), Kayunga (Kangulumira Sub-county) and Mayuge (Magamaga) covered under 6 Branches. The Corporation boasts of over 1000kms of water mains and 90 km of sewer mains.
Although the Corporation in the Area has guaranteed reliable supply so that customers who expect a lot from it get steady access to clean-safe water which is a basic universal right, it is extremely concerned about the mushrooming of illegal structures constructed on or near main water lines in Jinja and that Culprits that encroach on water lines are running the risk of losing their lives in the event of pipe bursts.
Speaking to Red pepper early this week at the Corporation’s office in Jinja, Agnes Atwooki, the senior public relations officer at Jinja Area said Structures built over around the pipes and installations apply loading to the pipelines and disturb fill material around the pipes which ultimately damages the pipes and affects the quality of water supplied to
‘’Construction above and near pumping mains, along the grid then exposes pipes to burst and related effects. It renders repair extremely onerous,” said Atwooki.
According to the Corporation, external pressure from construction equipment excavating the ground and erected structures normally tend to squeeze the pipes beyond their structural limits. The pressure makes pipes either crack or burst, thereby leading to a burst that could cause death, especially on main pipes due to high water pressure.
The encroachment is severe along Tabingwa Road, located in Walukuba –Masese Division where developers have erected buildings above the Corporation’s pipes posing a serious danger to the water infrastructure and the public at large.
Authorities in the City where the encroachment is highly practised have failed to enforce the law, and hold liable all individuals who are putting at risk the lives of millions of people whose livelihood depends on the water pumped by the corporation.
Dr.Charles Okuonzi, the NWSC Jinja area General Manager said that although the corporation’s aim is to make drinking water affordable, the illegalities by developers on Nwsc reserve land exposes the lives of thousands of Ugandans to danger.
Okuonzi revealed that NWSC spends millions of Shillings per month on chemicals to treat water that is supplied through the network, however, the likely exposure of pipes due to human developments along the reserve grid by encroachments may possibly bring about Health-related issues to consumers.
He asked local authorities to desist from allocating titles to developers to construct on the reserve land of water pipelines which have existed since the 1950s.
‘’Building a house on top and near the major water supply pipeline is hazardous to the community. Such malpractices must be addressed by bringing the culprits to book. Water gets channelled by using high calibre pipelines. In this kind of pressure mount, should there be a hole in the pipe water will gash out into the air. That clearly demonstrates the danger of encroaching on water lines’’, said Dr. Okuonzi.
He added that it also becomes a challenge when the main pipeline has to be fixed but access denied due to settlements that are built on structures making it difficult for engineers to access the pipes for maintenance and inspections purposes.
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“This kind of improper behaviour puts the lives of the innocent in danger should the pressure in the pipe cause pipe-burst. Local authorities are also urged to play a leading role in overseeing the illegal settlement structures on water pipes by denying approval of constructions in such places,’’ Okuonzi revealed.
Efforts to get a comment from Jinja City Council were futile by press time, as Rajab Kitto, the Public Relations Officer’s phones were unreachable