A ghost awakens: Jinja pier prepares for revival

A ghost awakens: Jinja pier prepares for revival
The Jinja Pier has been idle for years | Herbert Sseryanzi

The once bustling Jinja pier stood silent, a haunting echo of its vibrant past. Established in 1967 by the British, it was the beating heart of the region's marine economy. Here, ships bustled with cargo, trains rumbled in and out, and the air thrummed with the energy of trade. But time, like the rising waters of Lake Victoria, had taken its toll.

By the 1990s, the pier resembled a forgotten stage set. Derelict vessels, rusted and abandoned, resembled skeletal monsters beached on a forgotten shore. Train wagons, once symbols of progress, stood like forgotten memories at the edge of the dock. Houses, once vibrant with life, now lay submerged, swallowed by the swelling lake.

State Minister for Transport and Works, Musa Ecweru, could not ignore the pier's desolate state. Touring the area as part of a railway rehabilitation project, he saw not just ruins, but potential. The pier, in its heyday, had been a crucial link to the East African Community, facilitating trade with Kenya and Tanzania. Its revival could breathe life back into the region's economy and contribute to a more sustainable transport network.

Rosemary Tibiwa, a commissioner in the Ministry, echoed the minister's sentiments. "Revamping the Jinja pier is part of the scope of work," she declared, her voice ringing with hope. Funding, courtesy of the African Development Bank (AfDB), had been secured.

Minister Ecweru, his eyes fixed on the lake's vast expanse, spoke of the government's vision. "The railway is the way to go," he said, his voice firm. "It saves time and money, and protects our roads." Utilizing water transport, he explained, wouldn't just revitalize the pier but also extend the life of the country's road network, a crucial artery for development.

News of the pier's revival brought a collective sigh of relief to the region. John Mpologoma, a fisherman who had witnessed the pier's decline, spoke for many. "The pier was lifeblood," he said, his voice gravelly with time and salt. "Fish moved, people moved, money moved. Now, it's like a dead fish." His eyes, however, held a flicker of hope. "If they bring it back to life, it will be good for all of us."

The road ahead wouldn't be easy. Decades of neglect had left their mark. However, new energy coursed through the region. Young engineers, armed with blueprints and determination, surveyed the site. Construction workers, calloused hands eager for work, prepared for the task ahead.

The news about the pier's revival extended beyond Jinja. In Lugazi, a Spanish company's concrete sleeper factory, crucial for the Kampala-Malaba railway project, had temporarily shut down. While some worried about delays, the news from Jinja offered reassurance. The government, they understood, was committed to improving the country's transport infrastructure.

The story of Jinja Pier became a silent beacon, a symbol of Uganda's commitment to progress. It was a story not just of bricks and mortar, but of reviving lost connections, boosting the economy, and building a more sustainable future. As the first dredges churned the water, a whisper seemed to rise from the lake's depths: "The ghost awakens." The once-abandoned pier was ready to reclaim its place as a vital artery in Uganda's economic and transportation network.

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