At least 22,822 households in Nakasongola District are set to benefit from the rural electricity programme following its commissioning last week.
Government through the Rural Electrification Agency (ERA) contracted Mohan Energy Corporation Private Ltd and EMC Ltd to distribute 271kms of medium voltage line and 142kms of low voltage power line through eight sub-counties.
These include Lwampanga, Lwabyata, Nabiswera, Nakitoma, Kalungi, Kalongo, Lwampanga Town Council and Kazwama.
The 413km powerline is funded by the African Development Bank at a cost of Shs15.3b.
District leaders say the project, which also targets about 297 public institutions, is a major breakthrough for communities which have never been connected to the national grid.
“The seven-year lobbying process to have our people get electricity has finally yielded fruit,” Ms Margaret Komuhangi, the district Woman MP, said after the commissioning at the weekend.
She said the powerlines go through landing sites because majority of the population derive their livelihood from Lake Kyoga.
“It is a fact that all these people need power for the different businesses they carry out at the landing sites, but this has not been possible,” Ms Komuhangi said.
Mr Elijah Ssembajwe, 65, a resident of Lwampanga Sub-county, said the area missed out on several projects.
“We missed the opportunity of the ice plant because we had no electricity. The ice plant was later relocated to Nakasongola Town Council, about 30km from Lwampanga Landing Site,” Mr Ssembajwe said.
Ms Naume Nabbanjja, a resident of Zengebe Landing Site, welcomed the project, saying: “We have been depending on generators to power most of our gadgets, including salons, refrigeration, among others, which is very expensive.”
The Nakasongola County MP, Mr Noah Mutebi Wanzala, said the programme is a relief to more than 70 per cent of the households who had lost hope of getting connected to the national power grid.
“We the politicians and government officials had been labelled liars because of the endless promises. We appeal to the beneficiaries to cooperate with the contractor. Owning up the electricity project will help us identify any individuals involved in vandalising the power lines,” Mr Mutebi said.
Mr Gerald Tindimwebwa, a field officer at the REA, said the project funds include a compensation component for some people who could lose property. “The electricity is free of charge. We also advise residents to be on the watch for unscrupulous individuals who could take advantage of the new project to con and defraud unsuspecting residents. We have already sensitised our people because these incidents happen when government launches new projects,” he said.
Out of the 10 sub-counties in the district, only two are connected to the national power grid.
About 16 per cent of households have access to electricity and 41.8 per cent use tadooba (tin lamps).
Power coverage countrywide
Early last year, government announced that it had acquired a Shs784b loan from China to extend power to all sub counties across Uganda. The project is expected to cover 547 sub-counties focusing on trade and health centres, schools and economic zones. The move seeks to increase power accessibility from 22 per cent to at least 60 per cent in the next 10 years.
Uganda currently has about 20 per cent of the population connected to electricity, one of the lowest figures globally. The number drops to an estimated 7 per cent in rural areas. To address this challenge, government has invested heavily in the distribution lines in the last few years, but the investments in the distribution infrastructure have so far not resulted in a significant uptake in electricity connections, especially among poor households.