To boost their compensation awards, land owners are building in sections marked for demolition
Plans to construct a modern highway have sparked a feverish property boom along Entebbe-Kampala Highway, as land owners construct new buildings, targeting to profit from generous compensation funds.
Over the past three or four months new buildings have sprung up in the area designated for expansion of the highway.
At Abayita Ababiri trading centre, a cluster of new commercial buildings, including a new Crane Bank branch that did not exist 6 months ago, have been earmarked for demolition with white arrows indicating the extent of the road.
Local sources say that the 'big shots' who own land in the area are boosting up the value of their property before the compensation process begins. Even land sales have increased for the same reason.
Government is constructing a 51.4 km dual carriageway expected to start from the Northern Bypass at Busega roundabout and end at Entebbe International Airport, with a turnoff to Munyoyo.
The new highway, to be managed as a toll road, will comprise of a 37.23km road connecting Kampala North Bypass at Busega with the existing Kampala - Entebbe road at Abayita Abababiri and a 14.13 km road connecting Munyonyo through Lweza with the new Kampala - Entebbe Highway Project.
The project will be undertaken by China Communication Construction Company, which also constructed the Soroti-Lira Road. It will take four years to build at a cost of about US$476 million (Shs1.19 trillion). Of this US$350 million (Shs 875bn) will be a loan from China's EXIM Bank, to be paid back after 20 - 40 years at 2% interest, US$126 million (Shs 315 bn) counter funding and Shs 100bn from the Uganda government for compensation.
The process of compensation of people affected by the road started in March 2012, according to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), and demarcations have been made where the road will pass. Yet, developments continue inside the road demarcations. This will cost the taxpayer, as owners of such developments will be compensated for their property value, only to have them torn down to make way for the road.
UNRA says it sees the problem, but cannot do anything about it.
"There is no instrument we can use to stop people from building on the land because the ministry of lands has not gazetted the area, to compel local authorities to stop authorizing new developments," says UNRA spokesman Dan Alinange.
Alinange however said that those who put new investments on land that has already been valued will lose, as they will only be paid the amounts established at the time of valuation.
Addressing local worries about displacement and compensation, Alinange said affected property will be compensated at market value, and people who are forced to leave homes and shift elsewhere, will get an extra 30% for the distress.
"It is important that government releases money for compensation fast to avoid further delays, which will increase in the cost of the project," he says
Seryazi Lameck, a sociologist and project coordinator for M/S Mott Macdonald Uganda Ltd, which was contracted to manage the valuation and compensation, said no particular figure had been reached for compensation, but they were working round the clock to complete the exercise.
Seryazi said a social impact assessment was underway to understand the effects the project will have on the communities and to mitigate any negative ones.
"We are sensitizing people on both the benefits of the project and the negative aspects," he said.
"We are valuing and compensation will begin as soon as money is released from the current budget," Alinange said.
He said people affected will be given 3-6 months to move before demolition begins.
Many developments in areas through which the highway will pass, like part of the new Abayita Ababiri produce market which was commissioned about 3 years ago, are scheduled for demolition.
Market Chairman Hajji Ibrahim declined to comment, saying the matter was being handled at the district and sub-county.
However LC1 Chairperson Mzee Ssebbowa said while land owners were to be compensated, no similar mitigation was offered to traders who will lose their living when facilities like Abayita Ababiri market are demolished.
Mzee Ssebbowa said so far over 46 property owners had been identified in Abayita Ababiri village alone and another 53 in Kawafu, not counting tenants, yet these were only a tiny fraction of the population to be affected.