By Moses Nampala
FROM the tarmac road, the extent of damage on the bridge over River Mpologoma on the Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale highway, Namutumba district, appears minor, but, the worst part of the damage is on the left side.
Like a tunnel with a punctured roof, looking through the hole is yet another shocking scene, you are compelled to appreciate the gravity of damage.
It is apparent that beneath the hole is nothing but huge volumes of water. A vast portion of the bridge foundation has been washed away by the river.
Yet this is not the only critical spot of the damage. Another shocking scene lies 500 metres away. The river has dug up a huge canal, stretching from the extreme left side of the road into the interior of the bridge.
The Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) Mbale regional station manager, Stephen Kisubi, admits the damage is immense.
â€œAssessment of the damage has shown that about 700 metres of the bridge needs repair. We have banned all heavy trucks that use the route but allowed light vehicles only,â€ Kisubi disclosed.
He said motorists from Iganga ought to use the Iganga-Bugiri Tororo route, then connect to Mbale.
When The New Vision visited the area recently, traffic flow across the bridge was being controlled on either side of the damaged spot. The area LC1 chairman, Martin Basoma, wondered why the authorities continue to allow traffic on the route. â€œThe damaged section has been a hide out for highway robbers at night. Motorists are not allowed to drive by, they risk being attacked by robbers,â€ he said.
Basoma also disclosed the damages was first discovered two months ago. According to Ayoub Muzira,77, who has served as a casual labourer from 1971 when the bridge was constructed, the contractors only replaced a few damaged culverts.
However, Kisubi blames the damages on vandalism. â€œSome individuals have been looting metallic culverts for selfish gains. They dismantle the culverts to sell them to artisans.â€
Siraji Kajimu, a taxi driver, regrets the delays as passengers cross the damaged stretch. Abudu Mulawa, a charcoal trader, says since the bridge developed a hole, he has lost his Mbale-based customers as vehicles avoid carrying heavy loads.
Aggrey Waiswa, a bus driver is worried about the inevitable diversions once the road is closed. He says buses will be prone to frequent breakdowns as the alternative routes are bumpy.
John Mukwana, a businessman in Mbale, expects the transport fares from Mbale to Kampala to rise as the alternative routes are not only impassable, also long.
While it could be true that vandalism and age could be responsible for the damage on the bridge, heavy rains cannot be overlooked.