Annet Muwanguzi, a resident of Bwaise II in suburban Kampala, says the Lubigi water and sewage treatment plant project has terribly inconvenienced her since construction work started in 2011.
But after the plant's commissioning by President Museveni last Friday, Muwanguzi became optimistic that the project could improve the largely messy sanitation in her neighbourhood. Her homestead, consisting of six single-room rentals, is surrounded by stagnant water from a nearby drainage channel, blocked as a result of the construction work at the plant in Lubigi swamp.
It has also limited access to Muwanguzi's area, where she shares a community pit latrine with hundreds of other families. Consequently, the latrine gets filled quickly and pollutes the home environs. Muwanguzi laments that emptying the latrine takes long because local officials struggle to collect money (between Shs 250,000 and Shs 300,000) from residents to hire a sewage truck to empty the pits.
Many Bwaise residents live precariously like Muwanguzi. In fact, a common joke goes that "water is life unless you live in Bwaise".
However, Muwanguzi's ordeal could be history once the contractor, Spencon, hands over the facility to start full operations in April. Bwaise and the surrounding areas, including Makerere, Mulago, Katanga and Kawempe, will benefit first from the plant, which has a sedimentation tank (with 500 cubic metre-capacity per day) for handling raw sewage from pit latrines and septic tanks.
Another section of the facility connects to the main sewer network, collecting up to 5,000 cubic metres of raw sewage per day from Makerere University, Mulago hospital, Wandegeya and parts of Nakasero. Speaking at Friday's commissioning, President Museveni strongly criticised Area MP Moses Kasibante (Lubaga North) for trying to sabotage the project.
"I was informed that initially Lubaga division did not like this project to go on. It is good that they realized their problem and supported the project. Government projects affect everybody and you should embrace them without wasting any time. We would have arrested this Kasibante," Museveni said.
Kasibante allegedly mobilised people to occupy the swamp and fight the project, leading to delays in construction.
"Even members of Parliament can be arrested. If there are legal issues, these can be settled but you cannot stop government projects. Kasibante should never do this again and must stop this stupidity," he said.
The plant, part of the Kampala Sewerage master plan, is under the Lake Victoria protection project phase one. Three other plants will be built in Nakivubo, Kinawataka and Nalukolongo. According to National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) officials, the new Lubigi plant will increase efficiency in the collection and treatment of sewage and waste water from northern Kampala.
Much of Kampala's sewage is collected from pit latrines and septic tanks in homes of city residents. Only eight per cent of Kampala's buildings, especially in the central business district and affluent suburbs, are connected to the sewer network.
"This [Lubigi plant] is a very big addition for northern Kampala and public health will certainly improve," says Dr Silver Mugisha, the NWSC managing director.
Mugisha notes that Bwaise residents will hugely benefit from their proximity to the facility.
"They have been transporting it all the way to Bugolobi, but now it's next door," Mugisha said.
The plant has five open ponds (anaerobic and facultative), where raw sewage is treated. To allay fears of foul smell from the plant polluting the air, Dr Johnson Amayo, NWSC's chief manager for planning and capital development, said:
"The smell will be very limited here because we have covered the main source which is the raw pit latrines and septic tanks waste is confined in one place."
Amayo said the new plant had the capacity to serve the whole of metropolitan Kampala. The plant, which cost 15 million Euros, complements NWSC plans to upgrade the existing Bugolobi facility.
Currently, Bugolobi sewage plant has a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres, which will be upgraded to 50,000 cubic metres.