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Hoima town feels the strain of a high population

New buildings are coming up in Hoima, and so are new people from across the country.

New buildings are coming up in Hoima town, and so are new people from across the country.

As more people flock to Hoima town in pursuit of oil opportunities, municipal officials are increasingly getting concerned about the town’s lack of capacity to handle the massive waste that comes  with a high population.

According to the Mayor, Mary Grace Mugasa, the town has seen a steady increase in population since 2009.

“During this time there was a lot of talk on oil,” she explains. “The media was also reporting all sorts of things, even exaggerating the situation. People were coming expecting jobs. To make matters worse, in 2010, government announced a plan to build a refinery in Hoima,” Mugasa said.

A busy street in Hoima town

A busy street in Hoima town

Consequently, some people shifted their businesses from neighbouring Masindi to Hoima. “One person who comes and gets a job, brings along two others, while the one opening or shifting business to the municipal can bring five or more people,” she added.

According to the Town Clerk, Emmanuel Banya, Hoima hosts an estimated 200,000 people, up from 45,000 five years ago. This has put a lot of pressure on the existing amenities in the town, including waste management facilities.

“The challenge is that most of them have come from a rural setup where garbage management is predominantly traditional. They come along with their habits of traditional waste management. We have a big task ahead of us assimilating such people,” he notes.

Inadequate resources

Although the municipality owns three dumper trucks, officials say they are often grounded due to   lack of fuel. The municipality also cannot afford to hire enough manpower to sort the solid waste and currently employs only 15 casual workers.

“If more than 25,200 tons is collected annually, we need to work on at least 69 tons per day; to sort the decomposable from non-decomposable, which is impossible with 15 labourers,” observes Ronald Kyamanywa, the municipal environment officer.

“If the town continues to grow at the rate it is today, there is a possibility that in just the near future we may fail to handle because of the (lack of) resources.”

The problem also extends to liquid waste as the sole lagoon managed by the National Water and Sewage Corporation to serve the Central Business Area is substandard.

“It is supposed to have three ponds but this has one. This means that there cannot be effective treatment of the waste,” explains a district official who preferred anonymity.

Yet, the population in Hoima continues to swell, leaving municipality officials desperate for a quick solution.

According to the Mayor, Hoima needs to be declared a special planning area as soon as possible.

“Managing the current oil effects has surpassed the local planning and management capacity, given the limited funding from the central government,” Mugasa argues. “The government should in the meantime consider special consideration for Hoima Municipality in the national budget,” she concludes.

Report by William Rwebembera, in Hoima