• Fri. Sep 29th, 2023

UGANDA, Lukaya | Real Muloodi News | Lukaya, a bustling business centre on the Kampala-Masaka highway, has been transformed into a desolate ghost town in the past week following the collapse of the Katonga Bridge.

The bridge breakdown has had a crippling effect on numerous businesses in the area, particularly those relying on selling goods to daily travellers.

Roadside vendors at the renowned Lukaya Road Toll Market, fishmongers in Lwera Swamp, and fresh fruit dealers on the highway are among the most severely impacted.

Rosette Gyaviira, a vendor at the Lukaya Road Toll Market, likened the current situation to the hardships faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sudden collapse of the Katonga Bridge and the subsequent closure of the highway have resulted in significant losses. Goods such as watermelon and gonja (sweet plantain), purchased to sell to travellers, are now rotting due to the lack of customers.

The Katonga Bridge serves as a crucial gateway to regional borders, including Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It succumbed to devastating flash floods that swept through the area on May 11.

As the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) undertakes repairs on the broken bridge, motorists travelling from Kampala to Masaka are forced to use the longer Mpigi-Kanoni-Sembabule-Villa Maria Road, extending their journey by 56 kilometres.

The extended route has created numerous challenges for businesses along the highway, exacerbating the financial burden faced by vendors.

Joseph Lutaaya, a seller of roasted beef (Muchomo), expressed concerns that his fellow vendors, particularly those dealing in snacks and beverages, are now at risk of losing their properties to money lenders and financial institutions due to their inability to make daily loan repayments.

Juliet Nakidde, a supermarket proprietor, lamented the decline in business caused by the absence of travellers. Vendors used to stock items like bread, sugar, and beverages to sell to these travellers, but now they are left without customers.

Lodge and bar owners are also severely affected, as long-haul truckers, their regular clientele, can no longer access the town. Even the local sex workers have relocated to neighbouring towns where they can find some business opportunities.

The neighbouring township of Nabyewanga, 18 kilometres from Lukaya, faces a similar fate.

Madinah Namubiru, a dealer in fresh fruits and sweet potatoes, has ceased her operations. She decided to halt her stock when the Katonga Bridge collapsed, urging her supplier to wait until the situation normalises.

Joseph Wasswa Ssekitto, the general secretary of the Lukaya Road Toll Vendors Association, reported that desperate vendors have tried moving to different townships along the diversion route.

However, they struggle to find suitable locations to set up their businesses. Vendors dealing in gonja, for instance, are facing significant losses as their weekly orders worth USh7 million from DR Congo farmers go to waste.

Ssekitto appealed to the government to provide relief to the affected vendors who are no longer able to support their families due to the absence of income.

He also urged the UNRA to expedite emergency restoration works on both the Katonga Bridge and the Lwera Swamp to mitigate the losses incurred by the local business community.

Over 500 youth and women who rely on the market are left without livelihoods, further highlighting the need for swift action.

Engineers from the UNRA began emergency repairs on the Katonga Bridge on Wednesday 17th May 2023. The restoration work is expected to last approximately three weeks, during which efforts will also be made to repair the Lwera Swamp.


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