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Why Ugandans build in road reserves

For interfering with a road reserve, the Roads Act of 1949 imposes a Shs 1,000 fine.

But as urbanization continues to expose Uganda’s poor planning, a new report has found that Ugandans don’t know two crucial legislations that govern road use in the country. When government suddenly announces plans to expand roads, shrewd encroachers, who hitherto paid the Shs 1,000 for building in road reserves, now ask for huge compensation from government.

A report by the Uganda Road Sector Support Initiative (URSSI) has revealed that most Ugandans don’t understand road laws, which is why cities and towns in the country develop along highways, allowing some to exploit the Shs 1,000 penalty. The 46-page report, according to Joseph A. Manoba, who compiled it, came after workshops across the country showed that Ugandans were ignorant about the Roads Act (1949) and Access to Roads Act (1961).

The consultations were held in Kampala, Gulu, Mbarara, Masaka and Mbale.

“Ugandans didn’t know about these Acts. But after educating them about the Acts, they said they (Acts) are outdated and need to be revamped,” said Manoba.

The URSSI report shows that urban planning, land use and road development are in constant conflict because, “when one is faulty, it messes up the other,” a cycle that makes development problematic.

“Our roads are narrow, and the government has found it hard to expand them because people have built structures in road reserves.

URSSI Executive Director Sam Stewart Mutabazi weighed in that, “cities grow along the roads and highways, and someone has to plan for these cities”.

The ministry of Works is in the process of pushing for the amendment of the two Acts and the Parliamentary Counsel has finished preparing the first draft of the amendment. On April 29, the ministry of Works officials and the Parliamentary Counsel will hold a meeting to scrutinise the draft.

Uganda National Roads Authority has come up to put road reserve points 30 metres from the centreline, but Ugandans want this amended to 60 metres. Ugandans also want the roads to be widened by up to 40 metres to minimize accidents, and that railway reserves should be provided for in the amended Acts because the existing laws do not provide for railway reserves—yet railway transport is a vital transport system that needs to be developed.


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