RESIDENTS of Muleba District in Kagera Region have raised concern over the ongoing Tanzania - Uganda road upgrading project (highway), saying that it has become a menace to their homes, habitat and environment.
Speaking to the "Sunday News" over the phone, Steven Kalonzo, a resident in the area said that the upgraded 154km road constructed between Kagoma and Lusanga has caused floods and soil erosion in the area. The five year project under the Tanzania National Roads Agency (Tanroads) is due to be completed in 2015 and has already covered 140km.
"Since the project involved felling trees to pave way for the construction and excavation of gravel used in the road construction, it has resulted in floods that have destroyed both houses and environment," said a concerned resident of Muleba.
They further complained that the construction did not make provision for proportional culverts to allow smooth water flow, creating havoc to the residents when it rains. A similar concern was echoed by some residents when this reporter made an extensive tour of Kagera Region recently.
Speaking to the "Sunday News" from Kagera, Tanroads Regional Manager, Eng. Johnny Kalupale clarified that the multimillion project followed the principles, which included Environmental Impact Assessment, as part of the process of ensuring safety for the people.
He, however, said that there were many factors that could have caused these floods including some residents in such areas constructing houses on slopes, which obstructs the flow of rain water causing floods. He also said that the upgrading of the said road should have gone hand in hand with the upgrading of the district roads which feed into the highway.
"Because of financial constraints, these roads cannot be upgraded immediately by the council. But it is clear that the soil erosion from the gravel roads clog the culverts, obstructing the smooth flow of rain water," he said. "The Muleba residents have reported the matter to their Member of Parliament and it is understood that their concern is that their roads should be upgraded to tarmac to stop the erosion," he said.
"I have discussed with the MP who is the Minister for Land, Human Settlement Development and she is aware of the steps that Tanroads is taking to address the situation," said the Engineer. But he was quick to say that he cannot rule out that there might have been an oversight during the construction which can be mitigated once it is established that there were technical problems from the road construction that are affecting the environment.
As a way forward, the Engineer has already written to the Tanroads Chief Executive Officer to send a team of environmental experts to review the project and confirm if the new construction of Uganda- Biharamulo highway was the main cause of floods and environment degradation.