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Locals await compensation over power lines

Tension is rising over East Africa’s biggest interconnection power project with some tenants living along the proposed pathway for the transmission lines saying they have no plans of evacuating unless they are  compensated.

And should their pleas fall on deaf ears, the tenants say they will seek legal action, preferably sue the government.

“UETCL [Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited] surveyed our land and we hoped that payment will be effected soon after the exercise. But up to date no communication has been delivered from the power company and some of our local people are worried that their land may be taken forcefully, since the power lines projects are about to commence,” said Lawrence Owor of Iyolwa sub-county, Tororo.

Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP), an arm of the Nile Basin Initiative, is spearheading the Power Interconnection Project, which will see transmission lines linking Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The project’s aim is to increase access of electricity in the rural areas, and bring down the cost of power, which remains one of the biggest bottlenecks to business in East Africa. About 12% of Ugandans have access to electricity, by far a small figure compared to say Kenya, which is over 20%.

Grania Rosette Rubomboras, the Regional Interconnection Power Project Manager, said funding amounting to $354 million has been secured from the African Development Bank (AfDB). Japan Technical Cooperation (JICA), Germany and the Netherlands. The Government of Netherlands contributed approximately $385 million.

The projects, to be completed in 2014, will evacuate power from hydropower generation facilities like the Bujagali (250MW) Ruzizi IV (145 MW) and (205MW) Lake Kivu methane gas (300MW), Rusimo (80MW), Isimba (100MW) and Karuma (700MW).

The projects shall be subjected to Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) in the respective countries. Compensation for property, crops and cultural sites is estimated to cost Uganda $128.1 million.

In drawing up the names to be compensated, Owor says some locals questioned the level of transparency; something he says has already provoked acrimony among the locals. He pointed out that the exercise by the contractor Power Networks on behalf of UETCL was “not transparent because the local people were denied the chance to contract their personal surveyors”, possibly to get to the true value.

Owor was speaking at a forum organized by the Nile Basin Discourse forum, a civil society net work in the Nile basin countries, at Imperial Royale hotel to assess the progress of the project. Speaking at the event, Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi, the MP-elect for Rwampara county in Mbarara, asked UETCL to quickly pay off locals from his constituency.

UETCL Public Relations Officer Kenneth Otim said the company shall pay all the persons affected by both the Mbarara-Mirama and Bujagali -Tororo regional interconnection lines once the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) reports submitted to the Chief Government Valuer (CGV) are endorsed.

“The process of compensating people for their property is through a process from evaluation, report writing, submission to the CGV and the disclosures. UETCL has received the RAP report for the Bujagali-Tororo-Lessos line from the CGV and very soon we shall embark on the group and internal disclosure processes for effective compensation,” he said.

UETCL will own the Right of Way after compensation. The compensation period is estimated to last June 2011 to June 2012.

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