About a week ago, President Yoweri Museveni launched three mega projects in Gulu City that are likely to turn around northern Uganda from a backward, peasant and conflict prone region to a modern industrial and regional trade hub connecting to the DR Congo and South Sudan.
On October 23, 2020 President Yoweri Museveni commissioned the newly refurbished Gulu Water Supply and Sanitation project phase 1 that will increase the daily water production capacity from 4,000,000 litres of water per day to 10,000 000 litres of water per day and serve over 200,000 people.
The refurbishment works on the 82 billion-water plant were jointly funded by the World Bank, The German Corporation through Kfw and the Government of Uganda.
A day before, the President had commissioned a multi-billion shilling Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru district located in Atiak sub-county, 85km from Gulu City on Gulu-Nimule road. The factory employs 2,000 workers and benefits more than 20,000 people and their families.
And on October 24, 2020 President Museveni also oversaw the ground-breaking of two flagship projects; construction of the Gulu Logistics Hub, and rehabilitation of the Tororo-Gulu railway.
The $8.8 million (shs32.33 billion)-Gulu Logistics Hub at railway village, Layibi Division will serve the trade corridors of Kampala – Gulu – Elegu/Nimule – Juba trade corridor; and Gulu – PakwachGoli/Pader/Lira/Vurra DRC trade corridor. The logistics facility, expected to be complete in 18 months, will help unlock the production potential of Northern Uganda.
The Hub will have a spacious container yard, container freight station, container cleaning and repair station, a vehicle holding section, an administration complex and an access road connecting the hub to the main roads to South Sudan and Kampala.
But it is the safe drinking water that will directly benefit majority of residents in Gulu and reclaim support for President Museveni and his NRM government.
Northern Uganda that has in the past overwhelmingly voted against President Museveni has started to gradually support the National Resistance Movement government because of deliberate efforts to lift the region from endemic poverty to prosperity.
In the past presidential elections (1996, 2001 and 2006) held under the NRM, the northern region, and parts of north east and the West Nile region have consistently voted in favor of the candidates opposed to the NRM regime or not directly associated with it.
The north-south divide became evident in the February 2006 general elections where virtually the whole of northern Uganda, West Nile and North East (Teso region with exclusion of Karamoja region) voted for the Opposition in the presidential race and the opposition or independent candidates in the parliamentary contests.
This was because the people in northern Uganda believed President Museveni had not done enough to end the brutal 20-year war with rebel leader Joseph Kony and his outfit, the Lord’s Resistance Army, which left hundreds of people violently maimed and killed and 1.5 million people confined to internally displaced persons camps where living conditions were rather deplorable.
But eventually the rebels were driven out of the country in 2006. This instability and insecurity in northern Uganda has been the overriding factor for the indifference for the NRM and therefore the tendency to vote for the Opposition candidates.
However, in 2011, the NRM started gaining ground and winning the hearts of the people in northern Uganda after initiating deliberate development programmes under NUSAF and others.
But today, the Opposition spearheaded by the National Unity Platform political party led by Kyagulany Sentamu Robert, also known as Bobi Wine, a singer-turned-politician, is trying to wrestle the region back into the hands of the Opposition through activists like Lina Zedriga, a lawyer and feminist.
The fight between the NRM and the Opposition has attracted deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah, the new Vice Chairman of the NRM’s Central Executive Committee to embark on sober leadership to be able to beat off the Opposition and mobilize northern Uganda into a prosperous region.
Oulanyah’s first task is to unity and reconcile all NRM leaders in the region and lobby for mega development projects.
Analysts say that projects like the Gulu Water Supply and Sanitation Project that guarantees hundreds of thousands of safe drinking water will trigger mass support for the NRM and President Museveni.
Under the Gulu Water project, government is going to pump water from River Nile at Karuma to Gulu in order to improve the supply of safe drinking water in the north of the country.
The raw water will follow a 72 km pipeline to the city of Gulu where it will be treated in a plant with a capacity of 10,000 m3 per day. NWSC is also planning reservoirs of 5,300 m3 each, as well as a pumping station. NWSC will build a water intake in Karuma to pump 30,000 m3 per day from the Nile.
“Impressively, the civil works at the Karuma water intake have been completed; however, work on the treatment plant, reservoirs and pipeline is expected to start in June 2021 and be completed in June 2023,” says the Managing Director of NWSC, Dr Eng. Silver Mugisha.
The NWSC Managing Director, Dr. Eng Silver Mugisha, said that the corporation is working towards 100 percent water and sanitation for all residents of Gulu City with an estimated population of over 150,000.
The NWSC boss says that future facilities are expected to provide drinking water to more than 341,000 people in the towns of Gulu, Karuma, Kamdini, Minakulu, Bobi, Palenga, Koro-Abili and surrounding areas. These populations will thus be able to benefit from drinking water at least until 2040.
The project will require an investment of 50 million euros financed by the Ugandan government with loans from the World Bank, the KreditanstaltfürWiederaufbau (KfW), the German development agency, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC Group).
While commissioning the project, President Museveni urged the people of Gulu to use the water to improve sanitation, health, the agriculture sector and economic transformation.
“There are no more Guinea worms, bilhazia, intestinal warms, cholera, amoeba in northern Uganda hence saving lives. Other elements of access safe water include time saved on labour by women and children who instead of walking long distances to access water engage in profitable ventures, water for production in factories, industrial parks, etc,” he said.
Mr. Museveni, however, cautioned that piped water was not good for agriculture; crops and animals as it contains a chemical called chlorine that kills the bacteria in herbivores affecting their digestive system. “Agriculture input needs untreated solar piped water because it’s cheaper and safer,” he said.
He cautioned Ugandans to stop invading and destroying lakes, rivers, forests and wetlands which, he said, were important water catchment points and “water factories.”
President Museveni appealed to Ugandans to jealously guard the environment against destruction bearing in mind that humanity cannot have enough and safe water when people are busy destroying the environment.
The President commended the leadership of National Water and Sewerage Corporation for their great vision that has resulted in the funding of most of the water works in the country using internally generated revenue.
In the last five years NWSC has extended safe drinking water from 170 towns to now 258 towns with a water network expansion from 9,900kms to 20,000kms (average annual growth of 2000kms) and growth in customer base from 530,000 to 720,000 connections.
Total number of villages covered (access to a public tap with subsidized tariff) increased from 4,800 to 9,900 villages and the total population currently covered with safe water supply under NWSC jurisdiction is 15.7million.
Some of the completed projects in the last five years include; water and sanitation projects in Arua, Bushenyi and now Gulu; Nakivubo waste water treatment plant, Nakivubo and Kinawataka sewers project and Kinawataka pre-treatment and pumping station; rehabilitation of Ggaba water work, Kapchorwa water supply project, Masindi water production improvement project and new Soroti intake at Awoja.
The others are the upgrading of Kapeeka water supply project, Fort Portal water production improvements and Buloba water supply project. The NWSC has also packaged sewage treatment plants for Fort Portal and Kisoro
Uganda has experienced two decades of economic growth, leading to large population movements from rural areas to informal settlements around urban centers. High population growth stressed the water and sanitation services that exist. Eight million Ugandans lack access to safe water and 27 million do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
The NWSC Board chairman, Eng. Dr. Prof Badru. M. Kiggundu, said that the corporation is implementing a five-year strategic direction and a corporate plan all anchored to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), Uganda Vision 40 and the National Development Plan.
During the commission of the Gulu water project, the state minister for environment hon. Beatrice Anywar, who represented water and environment minister, Mr. Sam Cheptoris, said that the project would improve the livelihoods of the people in Gulu.
She added that the water department is working to connect atleast one clean water source per village with 25shs per jerrycan, boost industrialization and connect clean safe water to all corners of Uganda.
“The recommended price of water at the NWSC pro-poor tariff is 50shs. Most water vendors are selling it at 300shs and above. We are working to sensitize our people against this exploitation,” she said, adding that expansion of water supplies will be implemented using internally generated revenue.”
The state minister for water Hon Ronald Kibuule, at the same function, urged Ugandans to harvest water.
“It is quite absurd that we wait for the water to run off our roofs and then fetch it from the water bodies,” he said.
He said that the current demand for water in Gulu City alone was eight million litres per day. “The new plant will produce 10 million litres per day to cater for the growing and future demands for services in the new city,” he said
On behalf of the funders, the German Ambassador in Uganda, Mathias Schauer, commended the Ministry of Water and Environment and NWSC for the tremendous efforts made towards providing safe clean water for all by 2030.
He highlighted the importance of safe water in limiting the spread of infectious diseases.
He appealed to Ugandans to mitigate the effects of climate change that are threatening adequate water supply.
“20 years ago Oyitino dam had enough water to keep all the taps in Gulu running. By 2012 the dam and all surrounding water resources could no longer maintain the supply for the people of Gulu. A costly process to transfer water from River Nile at Karuma to Gulu through a 72kms line is now being undertaken because wetlands have been encroached upon and forests cut down, reducing the water resource charge. We are all responsible for conserving the environment for our children and grandchildren,” he cautioned.
NWSC is also working on water and sanitation improvement projects in Lira, Arua, Parambo, Adjumani, Moyo, Nebbi, Koboko, Bushenyi, Mbarara, Isingiro, Fort Portal, Lugazi, Kampala and Soroti.
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