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UMEME power lines turn deadly as tycoons abandon lawful construction, engineering guides

One of the deadly points where power lines pass near commercial structures along Aso Street and Saza road in Iganga Municipality (Photo/Isabirye SImon Peter)

Iganga, (UG): A number of town developers in Iganga municipality, Iganga district have reportedly avoided the Building Control Act 2020 and resorted to constructing structures without necessary requirements as guided by the municipal standards.

This comes at the helm of deaths of builders as a result of electrocution in the town, the recent being on November 17, 2023, where a builder died as he was working at a building along Saza road belonging to one of the prominent businessmen in Iganga town, just opposite Kaneebo plaza where another builder died in a similar way.

These deaths according to authorities are especially caused by the failure of site engineers to provide a safe environment for workers and as well as building close to and under High Voltage power lines, something which has since caused worry in the community.

It has been established that a number of UMEME power lines in Iganga town pass close to buildings in the business town and the developers mostly fail to leave the appropriate distance from the power lines to their construction sites, something which draws the lives of workers and other community members at risk.

Kaneebo Plaza where another builder was electrocuted after tapping on the HV power line

However, interacting with the Civil Engineer for Iganga Municipal Council who doubles as the acting Building Control officer Mr. Lyada Phillip says they are purely responsible for approving plans of all buildings in the town under the Building Control Act 2020, which requires any developer to submit their plans to municipal council for approval before effecting any construction since they are responsible in supervising all buildings in the town.

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“Every building in the town should have an engineer registered with the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers and Engineers Registration Board but the challenge we have in Iganga is that most of our developers don’t follow the Building Control Act. This has caused accidents and some of our people have been electrocuted to death while carrying out work on some buildings,” Mr Lyada said.

In the recent incident where the Jinja-Iganga High Voltage(HV) power line killed a builder as he recklessly tapped an iron bar on the HV, Lyada says they had warned and written to the site engineer to halt the construction works but they turned down their letter and proceeded with work something which costed a life in the process.

“As a municipal council, we had written to stop them from proceeding with construction work since they lacked a registered engineer and also directed them to install a safety plan. Our people are always advised to construct at least five metres from the power lines and also put safety measures by covering the construction sites,” Engineer Lyada noted.

Iganga Municipal civil engineer Mr. Lyada Phillip while speaking to DailyExpress

The engineer stressed that the city tycoons don’t want to respect the laws governing construction in the town something he says has cost the lives of young and energetic innocent people. It should be noted that a number of buildings especially the flats belonging to city tycoons in the town were constructed without full observance of the Building Control Act, which has seen others halted before completion.

“….the challenge we have in Iganga town is that our tycoons don’t want to respect and follow the Building Control Act but we urge our developers to abide by these laws because young people are losing lives due to our carelessness and you carry this blood on your hands,” Engineer Lyada added.

The building (not completed) where a builder was electrocuted on November 17, last year

However, DailyExpress has established that some power lines in the town are not gazetted with specific corridors and this leaves the option to developers to avoid accidents by involving safety precautions at their construction sites by covering the sites and following other procedures required of anyone erecting a structure in the town.

This publication also understood that any developer needs to submit a number of building plans to the Iganga Municipal Council for approval before kick-starting any construction. These include structural, architectural, electrical installation and mechanical plans.

Some structures in the town were erected in reverse spaces of the town and authorities attributed it to earlier administration of the town.

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But according to Mr Lyada, the municipal council is responsible for supervising the construction of all buildings in the town, although, a number of developers turn it personal and abandon professionalism at their sites to the extent of accusing the law enforcement officers of being against them.

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