The oily spillage liquid believed to be tar poured on the road from Kinubi Roundabout in Hoima City’s East Division has caused fear among the residents in the affected area.
The black substance was poured by China Railway No.5 Engineering Group that was contracted to polish the Bulima-Kabwoya Road, part of the Trans-Bunyoro Highway commonly known as the KK (Kigumba-Kabwoya-Kyenjojo) Road.
Bigajuka stream that borders Kinubi and Kyarwabuyamba cells in Hoima City’s East Division is most susceptible to be contaminated by the spill that flowed downwards.
The yet to be known quantity of black tar liquid flowed for nearly three kilometres from the road construction area at Kinuubi Roundabout downwards Bigajuka stream along Kyarwabuyamba road.
The stream is relied on by low income earners as a source of water for tree seedlings, horticulture and domestic consumption. The water body has its mouth into the Wambabya River that empties into Lake Albert.
Ms Vivian Sanyu, who tends a tree nursery bed, fears that the spill could be hazardous to her project and health.
Mr Joseph Kasaija who witnessed the spillage said it occurred on Friday, August 28, 2020, at around 4pm during a heavy downpour leaving them puzzled about the composition of the oily liquid.
Mr Kasaija said that he saw some stone particles in the black liquid mixed in the flowing rain water.
The Kinubi cell chairperson, Ms Madina Byaruhanga, says following the public outcry three days later, she approached workers of the Chinese construction company on the site, who apologised for the incident that they blamed on unpredictable rains.
According to her, the residents withdrew in response to the apologies but remained worried about the likely adverse impact to the environment, animals, birds and people.
In an interview with Kazi-njema News this week, Mr Emmanuel Ejibu, the Environment and Social Manager for China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group, said he was not yet aware of the incident but regretted the incident if at all it happened and promised to investigate.
However, he doubted whether tar could flow for all that distance since it dries up so fast.
Our reporter took all the photos here on Sunday, August 30, a third day after the incident in reference to Friday confirmed by witnesses.
Mr Ronald Kyamanywa, the Hoima City Environment Officer expects the contractor company to be held accountable for any damage that follows its actions.
According to him, they are duty bound to adhere to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) guidelines and the approved Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report during project implementation.
They must care about fragile ecosystems and public health.
Mr Kyamanywa vows to follow up the matter to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) who is their supervisor to ensure that they are held accountable prevent recurrence of such spillages.
This is the first identified spillage involving road construction companies in the Albertine region.
Ms Sandra Asinguza, a Field Officer for African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) suspects that similar incidents could have happened before but were never noticed due to lack of community vigilance on environmental issues.
“Can you imagine residents looked at the spill and kept quiet for three days? Communities need to be empowered to improve their sensitivity to environmental issues,” said Ms Asinguza.
According to Mr Dickens Amanya, the Coordinator for Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO), the contractor should apologise via popular media channels and take necessary steps to clean the contaminated surfaces and water sources.
He also asks UNRA to prevail over the contractors for accountability.
This is the second spillage in Hoima district since the beginning of 2020.
A historical spillage of oily substance mixed with sand affected settlement and destroyed fishing gears before the smelly liquids disappeared into Lake Albert at Kibiro landing site in Kigorobya sub-county.
The spillage was linked to the Kibiro Geothermal Project exploration activities which were suspended over implementation without an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report discovered after the incident.
The Kibiro spillage victims have until now been neither assessed nor compensated.
The government recently announced identification for a firm that would take charge of assessing the impact of the spillage that would result into possible compensation.
The witnesses of the spillage that started with a bang and pressure lasting for nearly six hours have been demanding to be compensated or resettled because they feel insecure living nearby.
The spills are happening in the Albertine region areas where oil production is expected to start soon.
Members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been warning of possible oil spillages if the government does not take seriously the question of conservation during the implementation of the multi-billion dollar oil related projects.
The future lies more in environmental conservation than wealth accumulation, according to Mr Bashir Twesigye, the Executive Director for the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED)