Amidst Unprecedented Rainfall, Pakwach Residents Seek Bridge to Tackle Flooding Woes
In the wake of relentless rains and a delayed wet season in parts of Uganda, residents of Pakwach are fervently advocating for the construction of a more robust bridge to address recurring flooding issues on the Pakwach-Karuma Road. The situation has left travelers stranded and hindered movement, with the Tangi River consistently overflowing its banks.
Persistent Flooding: A Traveler’s Tale
For Jessica Acan, a frequent traveler along the Pakwach-Karuma Road, the road’s vulnerability to flooding has become an enduring ordeal. She recalls being stranded at least three times, twice while returning from Kampala and once while traveling to the capital for business. Her tribulations are exacerbated during the rainy seasons when the only respite comes after safely crossing the river. A harrowing incident in December 2019 even led to a malaria contraction after she spent a night awaiting passage.
Expressing her frustration, Acan questions, “For how long will we be suffering on this road? Last time, Katonga Bridge experienced similar flooding, and the government quickly secured funding for its repair. Here, every time it rains, we cannot cross.”
Dismal Conditions: Unprecedented Flooding and Debris
On Tuesday, the water levels of the Tangi River surged to unprecedented heights, washing debris onto the road. Last year’s installed culverts were swept away, and the Parkwach railway line now dangles precariously. Mr. Salim Ali, another traveler, emphasized the need for a longer and higher bridge due to the river’s altered course, which is influenced by climate change.
The worst affected section of the road is approximately 500 meters from the Pakwach Bridge, where hundreds of vehicles frequently become stranded during floods.
Climate Change Impact
With climate change at the forefront, the recurring floods on the Pakwach-Karuma Road are reflective of a global crisis. In 2019, Conservation International estimated that over 800 million people worldwide were already experiencing the impacts of climate change, with repercussions expected to last for centuries due to cumulative greenhouse gas emissions.
Local Authorities and UNRA
Local authorities, including the district Chairperson for Pakwach, Mr. Robert Omito Steen, express their frustration with the situation. Steen argues that the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has been ineffective in resolving the problem and suggests that it may be necessary to engage directly with the President to find a solution. He deems UNRA’s interventions futile in the face of persistent flooding.
Challenges with Temporary Solutions
UNRA’s response to flooding events has involved the construction of temporary culvert bridges, but these have proven to be vulnerable to recurring floods. The need for a more permanent solution has been recognized at the highest levels of government, with the UNRA Executive Director and the Minister for Works and Transport both acknowledging the necessity of redesigning and constructing a new bridge.
In April of this year, General Katumba Wamala, the Minister for Works and Transport, announced the government’s consideration of a new Pakwach Bridge project on the Albert Nile. The plan, however, hinges on securing funding, with no specified timeline provided.