UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | In the last decade, several municipalities and new cities received infrastructural projects, such as street lighting, which have improved the livelihoods of communities.
However, it has been established that the installed street lighting system in most urban centres has broken down due to lack of maintenance.
Some solar street lights became faulty shortly after their instalment, while others have been mishandled.
The lights were installed under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project funded by the World Bank. The installation of street lights reduced the crime rate, improved road safety, and supported businesses that operate at night.
Recently, Micheal Aboneka, a vigilant lawyer and activist for social justice, petitioned the Ministry of Works and Transport demanding street lights on the Kampala – Entebbe expressway and Kampala Northern by-pass due to security threats on the highways.
In Masaka City, according to the city authorities, most of the solar lamps were installed between 2015 and 2018, and each cost USh12 million with a 10-year warranty.
Unfortunately, the warrantied timeframe had not lapsed before the lamps were mishandled.
On Yellow Knife Road, one of the streets in Masaka City which first received solar-powered street lights in 2015, four of the ten lights are no longer functional.
On another street, Edward Avenue, four of the twenty-three lamps are faulty, plus one near Masaka City hall.
The city residents are concerned that the rate the solar lights are getting spoilt may put the city in darkness.
Musa Kabiito, a resident of Baata cell in Masaka, says some solar lamps just went off suddenly, while others were knocked by drunken motorists.
“We are wondering why city authorities are not considering repairing or servicing the faulty lights. At this rate, we may not have street solar lamps in the coming few months,” Kabiito said.
It has also been established that some of the batteries that power the solar panels have been stolen.
Solomon Mubiru, a businessman in Masaka City, says the solar lights had saved them from thugs who used to hide in the dim places to rob unaware residents. There are rising insecurity fears among the residents now.
“With more solar lamps becoming faulty by the day, we are likely to experience problems which had history. We ask the mayor and her team to fix the faulty lamps so that we can have a brightly lit city,” says Solomon.
Florence Namayanja, the Mayor of Masaka City, says, despite their unlimited resources, plans are on to repair the faulty lamps.
“We are not seated, we are looking for funds to repair the non-functional lamps. Currently, we are also installing solar lights in all trading centres annexed to the city which never had street lights before,” she says.
In Kabale District, the council authorities say that the street solar system was inefficient due to inadequate sunlight to charge the solar batteries.
Felix Beinamaryo, the Uganda Roads National Authority (UNRA) area station manager in Kabale, says they replaced the solar lamps with those powered by hydropower in 2022 July.
“After changing the lighting system in Kabale Town, similar connections will be done at Bunagana Border Post in Kisoro District and Katuna border post in Kabale District,” he says.
Byamugisha Sentaro, the Mayor of Kabale Town, says the solar system had proved expensive in maintenance since they were required to replace the exhausted batteries after some months.
“The solar lamps were installed in 2016, but a few years later, the system failed to operate normally, and the streets were left in darkness. I was forced to petition the government to replace them. They have so far reconnected hydroelectricity on Kabale highstreet. Other roads such as Nyerere Road, Nyerere Avenue, Kigongi Road and post-office-Makanga Road will also be replaced with hydropower soon,’ he says.
In Jinja City, the authorities say they lack funds to maintain the solar security lights.
“The works department is aware of all the problems surrounding the solar lights but there is no budget allocated for the maintenance of those lamps. Just replacing one solar security lamp with the pole costs between USh8 and 10 million,” Rajab Kito, the Jinja City Public Relations Officer, says.
About 20 solar lights are not working after motorists knocking the street poles on Nalufenya-Clive Road, commissioned in 2016.
In Soroti City, Paul Omer, the Mayor of the East Division, says that some roads under the USMID project never received street lights, and the biggest part of the city is still in darkness.
Unlike other municipalities which benefited from the USMID project, Kumi missed out since it attained municipality status after the project had already started.
“We also need the USMID project here to have key roads within the town tarmacked, and like other municipalities, we also need a modern market,” said Richard Ochom, the Mayor of Kumi.
In Masindi Municipality, Patrick Asiimwe, the assistant town clerk, says they have seven non-functional solar street lights.
“It is unfortunate that some of the solar lights we bought using our locally generated revenue have stopped functioning. We are planning to repair them before the end of this financial year,” he adds.
In Lira City, authorities say they need about USh400 million to repair the broken street lights, which have worked for a long time.
“So if you count from 2013, you will see that they have exhausted their life span and they need replacement,” Owiny Fred, the city engineer, says.
He adds they have now earmarked USh60 million under Uganda Road Fund to maintain the lights.
Denis Opiyo, a bar operator at Oyite Ojok Street, says he is losing business because most customers have shifted due to the dark street.
Francis Ogema Awany, the coordinator for the Uganda National Chambers of Commerce Industry (UNCCI) Lira branch, blames the issue of faulty street lights on the alleged negligence of the then Lira Municipal Council staff.
Despite the various complaints from different cities and municipalities concerning street lights, Fort Portal records that all the solar lights purchased under the USMID programme are still functional, and vendors have taken advantage of them to make more money during nighttime.
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