In Summary

Massive blackouts. The fires have resulted into massive blackouts, destroying properties worth Shs900m.

Power distribution company, Umeme, has lost more than Shs900m in burnt up infrastructure, causing massive power blackouts in parts of northern Uganda.

The fire, which is suspected to have resulted from bush burning, last week destroyed property worth millions of shillings, burning a section of Lira Feeder linking Bororo and Kampala Road-Ngetta lines to the substation.

Standing next to a partially burnt up power infrastructure, Mr Wilfred Kaweesa, the Umeme customer service engineer for northern region, said the fire was hastily put out but had already destroyed a number of properties, including poles and transformers.

“If it had completely burnt down the structures, the entire Lira Town would be out of power for 24 hours and we would have to spend a lot of money to restore it,” he said, emphasising that about 21 poles have been destroyed in at least two weeks.
Lira, which is an industrial hub, houses about 44 factories among them Mukwano AK Oils, Ntake, ginneries and spinning mills, Mount Meru and Nile Agro.

These consume an average of eight megawatts out of the 22 megawatts supplied to northern Uganda.
Mr Kaweesa said the destroyed infrastructure has resulted into blackouts lasting as long as eight hours in parts of Lira District and surrounding areas.

This is the second fire to destroy infrastructure in about two weeks.

Umeme suspects the fires to be a result of farmers preparing gardens for cultivation and fishing.
Scouting mud fish, which involves burning swamps, is a key activity in northern Uganda.

Mr Alex Dremo, the Lira District chairman, said government’s laxity to enforce laws against bush burning continues to affect local governments.
“We have been forced to create bylaws but bush burning continues,” he said, urging people to be careful with electricity infrastructure in order to control power outage.

Umeme has variously attempted to curb pole destruction through weeding around them as well as using fire fabrics. A fire fabric is a carpet-like material that insulates poles from fire. However, beyond destruction through bushing burning, Umeme said it continues to lose a lot of property through vandalism.

For instance, Mr Kaweesa said, they have lost more than 218 fire fabricators in the northern region with only one fabricator left.
“People steal fire fabrics. Last year we installed about 218 fire fabrics all over northern Uganda, but as we speak, we only have one around Puranga along Kitgum Road,” he said.

It is assumed that the fire fabrics are stolen and used as carpets in homes.

Stolen fabrics. Apart from infrastructure being burnt, vandals continue to steal a number of equipment such as fire fabrics, which are used as carpets in homes.
In addition to fire fabrics, support systems for poles are vandalised for turnbuckles and used for ox ploughs, leaving the poles vulnerable to strong winds.