Uganda: Karuma, Isimba Dam Dividends to Communities

Kampala, Uganda — It is 02:00pm on Thursday March 08, 2021, and a pupil at the government aided, Amaji Primary School, Oyamu district is resting on the floor where her bed is laid.

The dormitory is congested, poorly ventilated and could expose the pupil to bad weather, diseases and related external attacks.

Several other mattresses, for other pupils attending class are laid on the floor. There is no single bed in this dormitory.

However, this scenario will soon come to an end, as Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited through the contractor for the 600MW Karuma Hydropower Dam - Sinohydro Corporation Limited - moves to hand over newly constructed infrastructure facilities to the school management.

The company has already constructed boys' and girls' dormitories, classroom block, administration blocks, head teacher's house, and teacher's house at Amaji P/S.

The facilities, whose construction begun in 2019, for instance, are expected to accommodate at minimum 2,000 pupils upon completion.

This is far beyond the schools current pupil enrollment of about 1,200 pupils since it stated in 1982.

"UEGCL is making the school to become a model in Oyamu District," says Esther Awidi, the head teacher at Amaji Primary School. "We are happy and looking forward to seeing the standards of the school uplifted."

Sinohydro is also constructing a general hospital at Dii Cwuinyi village that will consist of an outpatient department with a general clinic, administration, teenage, radiology, orthopaedic and laboratory sections and two units of nurses' house.

Overall progress of the project is at 34%, according to the UEGCL Head of Communication and Corporate Affairs, Enock Kusasira.

It is also constructing Masindi Military Hospital which is complete and is to be officially commissioned soon.

Kusasira said, the total budget for the hospital and Amaji primary school is US$3million (approx.Shs11bn at current exchange rate).

The same budget includes costs related to equipping the structures with computers, sitting facilities, electricity, water and more.

In an interview with The Independent, on April 08, the Chairperson LCV for Oyamu district, Adea Nelson Akar, said the two projects are expected to improve service delivery given that the district has limited resources to satisfy the needs of the population.

"We are very happy about these projects," he says. He urges the people to own the projects and not to vandalise them. He says, the district would avail some of its meagre resources to equip the facilities with scholastic materials and related equipment.

Isimba dam projects

The projects linked to this dam are in the two districts of Kamuli and Kayunga, which are the host for the 183MW hydropower dam.

For Kayunga health projects, UEGCL under its Community Development Action Plan projects, has constructed facilities including, Busaana Health Centre III, Bukamba Health Centre III and Namusala Health Centre II.

In terms of education, the generation company has constructed facilities for Nakakandwa Primary School, Nakatooke Primary School and Busaana Secondary School.

In terms of sanitation, it has constructed several VIP latrines and boreholes in the district.

For Kamuli district, the company has accomplished construction of Nankandulo Health Centre IV, Mbulamuti Health Centre IV, Buluya Health Centre II, Kiyunga Health Centre II. All these health centres have campaigning sanitation facilities.

For schools, UEGCL has constructed Nankandulo Primary School, Lwanyama Technical Institute, St. Andrew's Primary School and several other sanitation facilities.

Leaders' voices

In separate interviews with The Independent, on April 07, the local government leaders in the two districts welcomed the projects, but want more support in terms of equipment, health workers and drugs.

"We are happy to have it because it is going to do what we want," says Dr. Lazarus Butenye, the medical officer and in charge for Nankandulo Health Centre IV.

Butenye says upon handover of the newly constructed health centre facility, they will be able to see more patients above the current number of 300 patients. He says the facility handles patients from Jinja, Kayunga and Kamuli districts.

Butenye adds that the expansion will decongest the facility and reduce chances of patients and visitors contracting diseases in this era of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Godfrey Wambuzi, the principle at Lwanyama Technical Institute (located in Kamuli district), said the facility will further support the agenda of government to push students do practical courses which provide solutions to local problems and tangible jobs.

"We are glad to have these structures," Wambuzi said. "We hope that more support in terms of equipment will come from the government and other well-wishers."

The institute, which started eight years ego, had a total of 100 students before schools and higher institutions of learning were closed due to COVID-19 in March last year.

The institute is yet to resume with 50 students who have confirmed their attendance so far.

The facility is important because Kamuli district is among those districts in Uganda with high numbers of youth with ability to do technical education courses to meet demands of the local population.

In two years' time, according to Wambuzi, the institute is projected to have an enrolment of 300 students now that there are more structures in place.

The institute offers a number of advanced and certificate courses including computer, motor vehicle driving and automotive mechanics, welding and metal fabrication, catering, tailoring and fashion design, hair dressing and bridal care, plumbing and pipe fitting, electrical installation and agriculture, according to Wambuzi.

The outgoing Kayunga District LCV Chairperson, Willian Tom Sserwanga, says "we are happy with the community development Action Program" given the limited resources that the district has to meet expectations of the population.

Sserwanga urges UEGCL, through its corporate social responsibility initiatives to support in repair and maintenance of the structures in future.

Commenting specifically on the health projects, the Kayunga District Health Officer, Dr. Ahmed Matovu, said the facilities will serve as part of the solution to the people grappling with diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and more.

"With a good working environment you expect good results," Dr. Matovu said.

The Resident District Commissioner for Kamuli District, Robert Mutemo, is equally happy with the projects in the district.

"UEGCL and Isimba have made Kamuli shine than it was before," he says. He is optimistic that, with limited resources from government, initiatives of this nature are key in furthering the agenda of government of improving livelihoods of the people.

"To the community... please own and protect these facilities... look after them because they are here for you and for many years," he says.

He says, the security in the entire district is already tightly protecting these facilities from individuals who might vandalise or destroy them in pursuit for self-interests.

The overall objective of these projects is to improve the livelihoods of the communities that host the two powerful projects.

The estimated working budget for Kamuli and Kayunga districts is Shs15billion. The budget for Karuma CSR projects that is so far disclosed is US$3million (approx.Shs11bn).

Going forward, Enock Kusasira, said UEGCL is in talks with National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) to extend piped water to homes.

Similarly, UEGCL intends to extend power to the nearby communities in partnership with the Rural Electrification Agency.

Background of Isimba dam

The 183MW Isimba Hydropower dam was commissioned in March 2019. It is located 4KM downstream of Simba Falls on the River Nile, approx.50km downstream of the source of the Nile. The project site is about 21km from Kayunga town and about 65km from Jinja town. The power station is installed with four vertical Kaplan turbine generator units with a capacity of 45.8MW per unit, thereby providing a combined installed capacity of 183.2MW. The power dam is bordered by three districts - Kamuli, Kayunga and Jinja. Currently, according to David Lubega, the operations manager for the dam, the dam's utilisation capacity currently standards at an average of slightly over 60%. The project cost is US$570million (slightly over Shs1.4tn). The contractor for the project, China International Water & Electric Corporation, has asked for another one year 'defects liability period' extension to fix the remaining flaws of the dam. The dam is currently operated and maintained by Ugandan trained engineers.

Karuma dam

The 600MW Karuma Hydro Power dam is located on the Nile River in Kiryandongo district in mid-northern Uganda. When completed, it will be the largest power generating installation in the country. UEGCL officials say, official commissioning of the US$1.7bn project is next year. It is being constructed by Sinohydro Corporation Limited with UEGCL as the government implementing agency. Overall progress as at end of March 2021 was estimated at 98%.

More From: Independent (Kampala)

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