Entebbe International Airport expansion hits a snag

Entebbe International Airport expansion is likely to take longer than planned after the contractor, China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC) said it has run into trouble with a land owner and locals.

A clan in Buganda is claiming part of the project land, while people in Mukono have taken court action to stop stone quarrying in their area, thereby affecting CCCC’s supply of rock aggregate.

The Chinese firm, like others involved in big infrastructure projects, was operating under President Museveni’s directive to use local materials, in order to support Ugandan businesses, but residents say the blasting of stone has become an environmental hazard.

Also read: Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport gets expansion impetus

This came to light during a progress check by the minister of Works and Transport, Monica Azuba Ntege, on October 25.

Sun Guicai, project manager, CCCC, said that from their five-year contract to upgrade Uganda’s only international airport, they have covered 28% of the works.

“We only have one stone quarry site gazetted for us to get airport-standard aggregate, which is the first material in construction,” he said. “On September 24, Mukono court issued an order stopping us from quarrying until November 6, when court will resume,” Sun said.

The drawback

The injunction, he said, is a major drawback since this was the only site the government had assigned to CCCC. Sun said the company paid the agreed compensation to the people but 10 months down the road, they got a lawyer and went to court.

Also read: Plans to expand Entebbe International Airport in Uganda starts

“It is now close to one month. We depend on the open market for material whose cost is much higher than the agreed amount,” he said.

“We cannot do anything without approval from the relevant authorities, this is now above our responsibility,” he added. Up to US $200m was budgeted for the ongoing upgrade. The first phase includes construction of new passenger and cargo terminals whose completion deadline is 2020. The new passenger terminal building, covering 20,000 square metres, shall have automated baggage sorting facilities.

Officials say airport capacity will be boosted to handle three million passengers annually. According to official statistics, Entebbe’s passenger traffic reached 1,337,261 in 2014.

Before the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, passenger traffic stood at 785,000. Minister Azuba said she was pleased with the work progress despite the land problems.

Also read: Uganda: Entebbe airport set for a US$400m expansion

“There is a clan (mamba clan of Buganda kingdom) claiming the land in a place where construction of fuel reserves and drainage channel is supposed to pass,” she said.

The government, through CAA, secured a 20-year soft loan from the Export and Import Bank of China to finance the project which is part of the National Civil Aviation Master Plan.

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