KAMPALA - The state minister for works, Gen. Katumba Wamala explained to the legislators why the government wants to expand the size of a road reserve from the current 15 meters to 40 meters.
“The proposal is meant to guide the nation on proper planning for the country’s network. It is only when it is extremely necessary that it will apply to the existing roads. The truth is our roads can no longer meet the demands,” Katumba said.
Indicating that as a ministry, the amendments done by the Parliament physical infrastructure committee are agreeable to them, Katumba elaborated that the expansion of the road reserves would not be done without prior compensation of the owners as article 26 of the Constitution requires.
Justifying the expansion from 15 to 40 meters which many MPs had opposed, Katumba made reference to Kenya where the size of a road reserve is 40 meters and Tanzania where the size of the road reserve is 60 meters.
“My final appeal to you colleagues is that as you consider this Bill, take note of the work done by the committee and let’s debate it with the national interest as our guideline,” Katumba stated.
The physical infrastructure committee rejected a government proposal for the government to expand road reserves from the current 15 meters on every side to 40 meters without compensation of landowners.
In clause 23 of the Bill, the government proposes to confer upon the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) the power in writing to stop a landowner or any person having any right over land from doing any activity within the radius of 40 meters.
The legislators argued that this would be another way of the government reintroducing the compulsory land acquisition before compensation which had been rejected.
“The committee noted that clause 23 contravenes article 26 of the constitution, which protects every Ugandan from deprivation of property for public use without adequate compensation,” the committee stated in its report.
The physical infrastructure committee chairman Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko appealed to the MPs to support the Bill to save the Uganda government a lot of money it would have to pay in the long-term when the land has become more expensive.
“It is important for the government to secure wide road reserves early enough for future projects because the value of land keeps appreciating at a very high rate,” Ssekitoleko explained.
Like Gen. Katumba, the minister for lands, housing, and urban development Betty Amongi also supported the proposal by the committee to delete clause 23 of the Bill so that there is adequate compensation for landowners before a road reserve is expanded.
Gomba East MP Kalule Ssengo said, “This Bill is a necessity in the interest of the public good. We should have passed it long ago. Every day it is delayed, it becomes more costly to implement.”
Pader woman MP Lowila Oketayot said, “I support the Bill. The Road Act of 1967 is very old. We need a new law. The acquisition of land for a road reserve shouldn’t be done without prior compensation of the owners as article 26 demands.”