The Minister of State for Energy, Eng. Simon D’Ujanga says Parliament must consider the Constitutional Amendment Bill on compulsory land acquisition if Uganda is to achieve development.
D’Újanga said that compulsory acquisition of private land for national development projects is not an option but an inevitable inconvenience which Members of Parliament must consider for this country to realize further developments.
The State Minister said this while briefing the MPs on the Natural Resources Committee who were on an oversight visit to the 600 Mega Watt Karuma Hydropower Project under construction by Sinohydro, a Chinese company on 18th August 2017.
“If Parliament does not do anything about the land amendment before it, development in this country is going to be difficult if not impossible,” he said.
The Minister added that many people fear to talk about the Constitutional Amendment Bill before Parliament but are quick to compare the costs of constructing dams in Uganda to those in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Eng. D’ Ujanga noted that in Ethiopia, the cost of their dam was lower than that of most of the dams built in Uganda because of their land policy.
Though the 600 Mega Wat Karuma Hydropower Project is expected to begin production in December 2018, the transmission lines to move the power to Kawanda sub station is still in balance. Uganda Electricity Transmission officials informed the Committee that they have so far acquired only 60 percent of the route.
The Vice Chairperson of the Committee, Dr. Kiwanuka Keefa (Kiboga East) queried the contractor on the safety of the workers, and also requested for an increase in the ratio of Uganda engineers to the Chinese.
Sinohydro currently employs 50 Ugandan Engineers and more than 2,000 causal labourers.
Hon. Reagan Okumu (Aswa County) expressed concerned about the workers’ welfare saying that they are segregated in terms of salary.
He added that the casual workers who do the most of the work are paid peanuts as low as Shs6,000 per day after working long hours in underground tunnels which are risky.
The Sinohydro management says currently all materials used for the construction of the Dam and the tunnels are locally supplied by Uganda manufacturing companies with the exception of the very big iron bars which are not locally available.
The Committee also toured Achwa Hydro Power Project in Pader. The Achwa dam is expected to produce 42 megawatts upon completion at the end of 2018.