Kampala-Jinja Express Way (KJE) Project, Environmental Safeguards thrown out of the window?

Kampala –Jinja Express Way is a project that has been in the pipeline for over four years to be built under PPP arrangement. It will be the second toll road in Uganda after Kampala Entebbe Expressway. Construction of the road is expected to commence in 2020 in two phases and will last until 2025, according to the current plan. The road is 76 Km with for lanes as it exits Kampala city, which will reduce to three lanes and finally to two lanes as it connects to the New Nile Bridge. It will connect to the Southern Bypass and Entebbe Expressway. KJE as it will be known in short will run side by side with the current Kampala-Jinja road which was constructed in colonial times to link Uganda with the coast of Indian Ocean.

KJE will be built under Design, Build, Finance, Operate, maintain and Transfer (DBFOMT) arrangement with a toll pass to collect dues from all vehicles that use it. It will be handed back to Government of Uganda (GoU) after a period of 30 years when it is expected that the private investor will have recouped their investment. GoU will provide Viability GAP Funding (VGP).

The project will come as a relief to motorists who have had to endure traffic jams on the current road that is heavily trafficked. UNRA has had very long and tedious preparations for this project. Many stakeholders have been consulted. Many international companies have shown willingness to be associated with the project. The procurement and selection of the best bidder will be done in due course. When a road is built, inevitably, there are likely to be social and environmental impacts.  Nonetheless, a few issues remain especially those to do with environmental and social safeguards.

  • Some of the outstanding issues include the following: All project documents so far do not have adequate information on social and environmental issues. There are no clear mitigation measures and environmental assessment. It seems that UNRA expects contractors to provide the plan.
  • Project documents talk about compensation plan but these are not detailed enough to determine how it will be carried out and who is likely to be affected, what impact the project will have on communities, estimated amounts involved and the resettlement plans if any.
  • The project is lopsided on funding a funder
  • This is a mixed rural-urban project. The likely damage to the eco system not well spelt out
  • Land use planning along the project corridor has not been put into consideration.
  • The fundamental question on whether people will be willing and able to pay the road toll is not adequately answered
  • It is not clear where the project will get the construction materials from for instance stones and marram which are in short supply countrywide currently.
  • It is not clear how the compensation will be handled. Most people do not have land titles yet they own the land. How will such people be handled? Too many land conflicts and many people claiming ownership for same piece of land etc. Need to know how this will be addressed.
  • Local content not well spelt out. How will local contractors and suppliers benefit from this project?
  • In the past UNRA has had projects where it goes ahead with implementation without fully compensating the land owners to avoid project delays. Is this what is likely to happen again. Is it right?
  • There are so many land speculators in Uganda who target to make quick money by purchasing land in the designated route and later on claim for huge amounts. How is UNRA ready to handle this?

KJE Project is a good one but the above concerns ought to be fully addressed for it to succeed.



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