Construction of Nyagak III Hydropower station in Zombo District has resumed after government agreed to pay Shs75m as compensation to Kal Umua chiefdom in Paidha, Zombo District.
On Tuesday, State minister for Energy Simon D'Ujanga handed over a dummy cheque of Shs60 million to the chiefdom at the project site. The money will be used for relocating shrines from River Nyagak, the project site.
Upon receiving the cheque, the chiefdom allowed the contractor access to some of the previously blocked areas at the site.
Speaking to Daily Monitor in an interview, Mr D'ujanga said the government committed to paying Shs60 million to the chiefdom to cater for the repatriation of spirits and cultural sites of the chiefdom from the river where the dam will be built.
Dott Services (contractor) in September 2019 suspended construction works at the site following a disagreement between the chiefdom and Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), the government agency. The chiefdom had, among other conditions, demanded compensation of more than Shs100m for the land and to relocate its shrines and other cultural heritages from the site.
"We had a number of meetings then we agreed that those spirits will be repatriated at a cost of Shs75 million to carry out all the necessary activities which can enable us to relocate the spirits. Today, we paid that cheque to Kal Uma Pahida and it was for Shs60 million," he said.
"Now we have to pay additional Shs15 million and this, we have agreed with them, to pay once the chiefdom produces a completion certificate indicating that they have completed the relocation exercise," the minister added.
UEGCL gave the chiefdom two weeks to complete the relocation exercise.
What chiefdom says
The chiefdom head, Chief Emmanuel II, said the payment was a sign that the government had realised the significance of co-existence between culture and development.
"We are not against development but the two must live together because each of them matters to any given society. We are immediately organising the relocation process and have it completed," he said.
Besides the conflict over relocating the spirits, Mr D'ujanga explained that the project had also been severely affected by lack of funds. "We had two problems, that of relocating the cultural sites and majorly, the cash factor; KFW, who were funding the project, pulled out and we were left without money until recently when the government advanced its own funds for this project."
Mr Moses Otim, the UEGCL manager for health, safety and environment at Nyagak, said there was an exercise earlier undertaken to identify cultural sites that are to be relocated.
Besides the relocation of the cultural sites, the chiefdom also wants the government to build for them a primary school, a health centre and a bridge on River Nyagak.
There are more than 15 project affected households but to Eng Nicholas Agaba Rugaba, the UEGCL project manager, the affected families have all been compensated.
The project recommenced on May 2, 2019 and its duration is 33 months.
The Nyagak III Small Hydropower Plant (SHPP) is located on Nyagak River in Zombo District. Costing $19.39 million (about Shs72b), Nyagak III HPP will have an annual maximum generation of 36.27 GigaWatt Hours (GWh), with the capacity to power industrialisation and electrification of homesteads in the West Nile.