Butaleja Residents Skeptical of Flood Surveillance Efficiency

1841 Views Butaleja, Eastern Region, Uganda

In short
The UGX 780m System uses a siren notification system to warn people about raising water levels. It is comprised of three main components of a sensor that is placed in the river, a solar powered siren mounted on a long wooden pole adjacent to the river and a Control Centre positioned at the district headquarters about 15 kilometers with computers which are a backup for monitoring the performance of the siren system.

Mixed feelings whelm residents of Butaleja district following the commissioning of a new multi-million early warning system that government has established in the Mt. Elgon Area.

The flood surveillance system which was commissioned yesterday in Butaleja is one of the latest efforts to mitigate the floods and landslides which have claimed scores of lives in the Eastern Uganda.

The UGX 780m System uses a siren notification system to warn people about raising water levels. It is comprised of three main components of a sensor that is placed in the river, a solar powered siren mounted on a long wooden pole adjacent to the river and a Control Centre positioned at the district headquarters about 15 kilometers with computers which are a backup for monitoring the performance of the siren system.

Lydia Kagoya, the Butaleja District Natural Resource Officer who is controlling the system explains that once the water levels reach a certain point on the sensor, a signal is activated alerting the communities to shift to safer grounds. The siren goes for up to 10 minutes.

The siren, with a voice radius of up to 10 kilometers, is then followed with guiding messages from the operator at the Control Centre on the next course of action.

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The project funded by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) jointly with government of Uganda through the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), is located at Namulo Bridge on River Manafwa in Himuntu Sub County. It is implemented by Butaleja District Local Government, the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, and Ministry of Water and Environment.

But most residents here are skeptical about the efficiency of the system.

Patrick Hire, the LC III chairman of Himutu Sub County, says the system failed the test during recent incidences where more than 200 families were displaced after the flood swept the area. Hire says the siren went up days after water had swept away crop gardens and homes.

Moses Wegulo, a resident of Tindi Village whose three huts were swept away by the flood says the project is a waste of money which should have been used to provide relief assistance to the affected people. He says the system never notified them of the floods which he says took them unaware and devastated their families.

Diana Mulangira, another victim of the recent flood says sometimes the siren even goes up even when water level is stable, raising suspicion about the efficiency of the system.

However, Joseph Muyonjo, the District LC V chairman says much as the system may not be very efficient, it has helped to inform people in time for them to evacuate. 

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While commissioning the system yesterday, John Nasasira, the Minister for Information and Communication Technology says government will keenly monitor the efficiency of the system in terms of how much it has helped people and readjust accordingly.
 
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The Minister says government was concerned about the growing vulnerability as a result of the natural disaster and that it was working around the clock to address the challenges. He asked the beneficiaries of the system to embrace it.
 
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Hillary Onek, the Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness notes that while the system will not end the floods, it will minimize the endemic loss of life and property. He says this is a big relief to the people of Butaleja District who, for many years has been ravaged by the persistent floods especially from the surrounding hills.

Onek says the flood surveillance system is the beginning of the government's scientific approach to address the challenges brought by the natural disasters.

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For many years, Butaleja district had been ravaged by the persistent floods due to its location in basin area and thereby receiving a lot off runoff water from the Wanale hills, Bududa hills, and the imposing Mt Elgon. The surrounding raised topography also implies that the area receives a lot of relief rainfall.

 

About the author

Denis Olaka
Denis Olaka is the URN bureau chief for Lira, in northern Uganda. Apac and Otuke fall under his docket. Olaka has been a URN staff member since 2011.

Olaka started his journalism career in 2000 as a news reporter, anchor, and then editor for Radio Lira in Lira district. He was subsequently an editor with Lira's Radio Wa in 2004 and Gulu district's Mega FM.

He was also a freelance writer for the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers.

Olaka's journalism focuses on politics, health, agriculture and education. He does a lot of crime reporting too.