STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY LINE TO DISPLACE 100 FAMILIES IN MABIRA

The chairman of Namengo village in Lugazi Municipality, Mr John Mbusi (2nd right), and residents that will be affected by the new railway line construction project. PHOTO BY HERBERT MUGAGGA 

By HERBERT MUGAGGA
BUIKWE.
The proposed new Standard Gauge Railway line will take way part of Mabira Forest and displace more than 100 families in Buikwe District, Saturday Monitor has learnt.
Mabira is one of the few surviving natural forests in central Uganda.

Mr Leo Twinomuhangi, the manager of Lakeshore Range, admitted part of Mabira will be taken away by the project but allayed fears that this will destroy Mabira forest. He said enough studies have been made to ensure the railway line does not affect the forest’s biodiversity.

“This has not been done for Mabira forest alone, but for all the forests from Malaba to Kampala where the railway line will pass,” Mr Twinomuhangi told Saturday Monitor this week without giving further details.
He said a 14-km stretch of the forest measuring 60 metres wide will be cleared for the railway project.
The construction will also displace more than 100 families in Buikwe District. They are pondering where to go since their houses lie along the demarcated area for the railway line.
The affected families are in the villages of Namengo, Kasambya, Kikawula, Nkoko and Bulyantete, all in Lugazi Municipality in Buikwe.
Other structures to be demolished to give way for the project include Hope Christian High School, Progressive SS, Lugazi Community Primary School and Cranes Junior School.

Kawolo Hospital will also lose its mortuaries when the railway construction begins.
Owners of the affected properties, who talked to Saturday Monitor this week, expressed fear that government might not give them enough compensation to find alternative land for settlement. Others said compensation is likely to delay yet they do not have money to relocate.
Mr Edward Nsimbi, the director of Hope Christian High School, said his property is worth millions of shillings and constructing another school will be an uphill task for him.
“What we want is government to compensate us in time and also give us ample time to relocate. The problem is that they may give you the money today and one month to relocate which is unfair,’’ Nsimbi said.
Officials from the ministry of Works have already held a series of meetings with the affected families and asked them to open up bank accounts where compensation money will be deposited.

“We were asked to open up bank accounts which we did, but our worry is we don’t know how much they are going to pay us,” said John Mbusi, the chairperson of Namengo village.
Mr Robert Wasswa, the chairperson of Nkoko village, asked government to tell the affected people how much they will be given to avoid tension and conflict.
“It is good for one to know how much he is going to get so that this person can start planning by looking for land to resettle. Unless this is done some people may fail to relocate even after being compensated not because they want to fail the project, but because the money given to them is too little to buy land elsewhere,’’ said Mr Wasswa.
However, Ms Diana Apio Kasyate, the communications officer of the Standard Gauge Railway project, allayed fears of the affected families, saying every household will be compensated appropriately and given enough time to relocate. 
“We can’t just send people away from their properties without helping them find where to go. We are going to compensate for all that will be destroyed during the construction of this line,’’ Ms Apio said.
Mabira is one of the biggest natural forests in Uganda, acting as a major water catchment area for Lake Victoria, the world’s largest fresh water lake and the source of River Nile, one of the longest rivers in the world.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR