Oyam – Electricity is one of the basic needs required by everyone in this 21st Century. However, its affordability and supplies to remote areas across the country remains a big concern.
A 2014 National Housing and Population Census showed Oyam district having a population of 383,644 people.
Of the total population, 196,523 were women while 187,121 were men. Interestingly, only 5,361 households, representing 7.0% had access to electricity whilst 42,156 households, representing 55.1% were using Tadooba for lighting their houses.
Yet in 2001, Rural Electricity Agency (REA) was established as a statutory body by Parliament, however it became operational, two years after, in 2003.
Its formation was aimed at reducing inequalities in electricity access, and other related opportunities for increased and improved social welfare, health and income generating activities.
Also, it was aimed at raising the rural electricity reach from 1% then to 10% within ten years; countrywide coverage too, to 30% within the same period.
However, in Oyam district, the projection, somewhat, is not near success according some locals, sub-county and district leaders.
Mary Okech, 45, a resident of Kamdini and a trader says there is uncertainty when she will start using electricity in her home.
“First of all the poles are almost 100 meters from my semi-parmanent house, and secondly, buying a pole to connect to my home is very expensive.”
Sam Alunyu is the Kamdini Sub-county LC3 chairperson who tells TND News that four years ago, surveys were done by REA officials, community promised many things and it’s not coming.
“Rural electrification has just started connecting to all government insitutions like Amati, Amaji and Kamdini primary schools and extension from Amati to Te-tochi and Aleny and to Kamdini Sub-county headquarters,” Mr. Alunyu says.
Whereas he says there is “no room for compensating community whose lands power poles are installed” under REA, he says there is a controversy in the main power line.
“The 132KV High Voltage power line from Karuma to Lira power station is almost finishing but there are families not fully compensated up to now. The valuation rate is not satisfactory,” he added.
“When the project lands on your land, they reduce an acre and remember Kamdini Sub-county has the highest interest for land and the rate is high in entire northern Uganda,” the local leader added.
According to Alunyu, he knows of five families in his area who have rejected being compensated and are demanding for more money.
“The law also gives them the right and opportunity to get their private valuer to work with government’s valuer,” Mr. Alunyu, further told TND News.
On electricity accesability under REA in his area, the LC3 chairperson commented that: “Not all population will have access to it because it will pass (it’s passing) through the road where houses are good meters away. Very few are connected to the national grid.”
Some of the affected persons told TND News that during surveys their land were stepped on and crop gardens destroyed, including other property.
In the project of this nature, residents (land owners) are advised to leave a distance of at least 10ft to 15 ft from the lines.
“I have waited for compensation for nearly two years now. I have gone to sub-county and met energy authorities, inquired when I should expect to be paid,” Simon Ojal, a resident of Wirao parish, Oyam South Constituency, said.
Serestino Adupa, 56, says: “My mahogany trees worth over shillings 2 million was cut from the plantation and my pit-latrine constructed at shillings 500,000 was demolished to pave way for power line.”
Remote areas with no electricity, accessibility
Apala B, about 9km from Kamdini yet with high population and a primary school is without power access.
Other areas he mentioned are: Zambia trading centre located North-West of Kamdini and 14km deep has a health centre, primary, technical and secondary schools but with no electricity.
He said: “My request to the authorities is to have those areas connected. Once they are connected and other places to the national grid, metal works, salon, hotels and small scale industries will be set up and will promote the economy of the sub-county.”
Jacob Odoc who operates a saloon business Wirao trading centre, Aber sub-county says the current electricity is not helping them (especially business people).
He says he uses a generator nearly 10 hours a week to run his machines because of unstable power, constantly going off.
“I spend not less than shillings 60,000 on fuel and my transportation from here to Loro Town Council where petrol stations are, to buy fuel. Sometimes I have to go up to Kamdini Town Council for the same,” Mr. Odoc said, requesting for an improved electricity supply and accessibility in rural areas.
On his part, the Oyam district LC5 chairperson, Mr. Nelson Adea Akar, says the district is not fully covered and connected.
“The electricity poles are there but not benefitting the people. Poles are reaching trading centres and some places on high voltage power,” Mr. Adea stated.
“Valuers are not done with their exercise. Some people compensated and rural electrification not enough,” he added.
He also reveales that this year, officials from REA, MPs, Oyam district leaders and other stakeholders visited some health facilities in the district and majority of them are not having electricity supply.
World Bank’s US$3.8m funding for Rural Electrification in northern Uganda
A document titled: “Rural Electrification Agency” sub-themed: “Energy for Rural Transformation Phase II, IDA Credit No. 45540-UG”, the government of Uganda with funding from World Bank through the International Development Agency started implementing Rural Electricity Project (REP) in priority areas under the Energy for Rural Transformation Project (ERTP).
An environmental assessment of the areas became a prequisite to all construction of power extension and distribution lines in the priority areas.
The REA then prepared an environmental assessment for the proposed construction of a 33kv electricity power extension and distribution lines in Gulu-Acholibur and Opeta-Acokara in Gulu, Oyam, Pader and Kole districts.
It was highly expected that the project would spur several economic development and activities within and beyond.
The beneficiries were too, expected to initiate agro-based and small as well as medium scale industries while insitutions and households were also expected to get power supply.
As mentioned above, the project area was to cover (for) northern Uganda to include construction of about 172km of 33kv power extension and distribution lines in Gulu-Acholibur, with Tee-Offs at Patiko-Palaro and Patiko-Laroo; Opeta-Acokara with Tee-Offs at Otwal-Okar, Otwal-Aleka sub-county, spur Aboke Health Centre IV, spur Awio trading centre and spur Kole, Pader and Oyam district headquarters.
According to available data in that Government of Uganda – World Bank funding document (with theme and sub-themed above), the overall project cost was estimated at US$3,805,990.68 million.
The agency’s (REA) head of Communications and Community Outreach, Dr. Patricia Litho says: “We are reaching villages and insitutions in Oyam district and countrywide. Our progress is currently well because we work on projection and population in an area.”
Oyam district was curved out of Apac district in 2006 and with a ‘currently’ 642 villages, 40 parhises and seven sub-counties.