Uganda: Kalangala Residents Up in Arms After Industrial Waste Cuts Off Water Supply

Residents in five villages in Mugoye Sub County, Kalangala District have raised a red flag over industrial waste that has contaminated a key water source in the area.

The affected residents are in the villages of Beta, Mutambala, Mugoye Ssemasiga, Senero and Busanga.

Residents say the continued release of waste from a Palm Oil Mill at Bukuzindu Village damaged the water supply pump at Mutambala landing site thus affecting water supply in the area.

The oil palm factory is run by Oil Palm Uganda Ltd, a subsidiary of Bidco Uganda, which manages oil palm plantations on Bugala Island in Kalangala District.

Mr Musa Katongole, a resident of Beta Village, said their lives are at risk since they can no longer access safe and clean water.

"Access to clean water is a big challenge now. We have resorted to drawing water directly from the lake which exposes us to water borne diseases like cholera and dysentery," Mr Musa Katongole told this journalists.

Currently, Mr Katongole said residents who fear using water from the lake trek about 4 kilometres to fetch clean tap water which costs between Shs500 and Shs 1,000 per 20- litre jerrycan.

Mr Isaac Sserwadda, the officer in charge of Mugoye Health Centre III, said the current situation is degenerating into poor sanitation standards that pose a health risk to the residents.

"Due to lack of clean water, we have started receiving dysentery cases from villages of Mutambala and Beta. We are currently handling 11 cases at the facility," he said.

Mr Sulait Kafeero, the chairperson Mutambala landing site, said apart from the contaminated water source, the effluents are also flowing into people's homes.

"We recently engaged the management of OPUL on the matter and they gave some food items to the affected families but they did not solve the problem. The waste is still flowing into people's homes," he said.

According to Mr Joseph Mulindwa, the public relations officer Kalangala Infrastructure Services Ltd (KIS), a firm that supplies water on Bugala islands, there are ongoing negotiations between KIS and OPUL to fix the problem.

"It is true we have not supplied water for close to two months because our pump got damaged and the water source is contaminated but negotiations are underway to see how we can jointly solve the problem," he said.

Most industries in Uganda generate volumetric waste yet they use outdated manufacturing technologies which do not have functional effluent treatment plants.

Mr Richard Ssentongo, the client liaison officer at OPUL but blamed the damage at the water source on recent heavy rains that caused the over flow of the company's waste stabilisation ponds.

"We did not intend to release the waste into the water source; it was beyond our own control but we are handling the matter to save the situation," Mr Ssentongo said.

Kalangala District has 84 islands widely scattered on Lake Victoria. But district officials say it is only Buggala Main Island that has a wide safe water coverage of at least 70 per cent.

A safe water project that government rolled out on selected islands over a year ago has remained nonfunctional.

Commissioned in March 2019, the Shs270m Solar Water pump under the rural water project that was established by Kalangala District Local Government has failed to serve the intended purpose. The pump can only serve a distance of 1km yet the safe water coverage target extends to a distance of 4km, covering a school and communities on Bufumira Island.

The 2014 National Housing and Population Census estimates Kalangala population at 54,293. The households with access to piped water were estimated at 3,810 (19.3 per cent) of the total population of Kalangala District.

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