Just this June, Alito Bridge in Obalanga Sub-county in Amuria District was washed away by floods. Before that, two villages; Angufewa and Ociba, with a population of 8,000 were cut off from the rest of Arua District following the collapse of Osu Bridge. The situation in Arua has been that way for the last three years.
This state of affairs has been replicated across the country in several—mostly upcountry—locations. In one of the latest incidents, a whole section of a major highway linking Uganda to Rwanda in the south west caved in and caused a lot of disruption in travel and trade. Every other day, news breaks of yet another broken bridge, leaving hundreds or thousands, stranded, desperate or dead.
Recent rains have wreaked a lot of havoc, causing many rivers and streams to overflow their banks. However, we cannot blame the rains. Many of the bridges which are now collapsing have been around for years.
Just as there are clear plans and budgets for road construction every financial year, maintenance of bridges which form part of some of these roads should be high on the priority list. However, the rate at which these crucial links are falling to floods is an indicator that we have not paid as much attention to this infrastructure as we should have.
Every time a bridge collapses or a section of road is washed away, expectant mothers cannot make it to hospital in time, children cannot go to school and goods cannot reach the market, among other disruptions.
The way things are, we are a country seemingly helpless in the face of the elements. If we are not careful, we shall soon be a nation with hardly any bridges; with citizens marooned in their towns and villages, stuck on either side of the river, cursing the rain.
This is a call to the authorities to embark on an assessment of often neglected roads and bridges in faraway places to establish the state of the roadways with a view to drawing a long term plan to repair existing structures and build better or stronger bridges.
Weather patterns change and river flows may alter over time. We need not be caught unawares in the storms of the future. Just like those marooned villages in Arua, Uganda should not turn into a land of unintended islands.