Karuma Bridge: UNRA further diverts trucks in Murchison park

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Karuma Bridge: UNRA further diverts trucks in Murchison park
Karuma Bridge was closed to heavy traffic for three months

UWA spokesperson Bashir Hangi says trucks, lorries and trailers will now go through a small section of the park so the impact will be minimised

The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has further diverted traffic affected by the closure of Karuma Bridge, with only buses now allowed to ply through Murchison Falls National Park via Luwero-Kafu through Masindi and Paraa.

This traffic connection to West Nile and northern Uganda via Olwiyo and vice versa will now be off limit for trailers, lorries and trucks.

The new traffic advisory, which takes effect Friday, May 24, follows follows wider stakeholder engagements to divert some traffic from the ecologically sensitive environment along the Masindi – Parra route," UNRA said in a statement on Wednesday.

"All drivers of trailers, lorries and trucks - except buses - are now advised, effective Friday May 24, to use Kafu-Masindi, branch off on the left to use Hoima-Biiso-Buliisa-Paraa road, to connect to Pakwach or Gulu via Olwiyo and vice versa," the statement added.

On May 6, the government re-redirected traffic flow at the Karuma Bridge crossing after engineers identified defects on the 61-year-old major infrastructure that they said needed urgent intervention.

The bridge, vital for connecting Kampala to northern Uganda, West Nile, DR Congo via Goli and South Sudan, was closed to all lorries, trailers and buses for three months.

"Only passenger vehicles carrying up to 28 persons will be allowed to use the bridge," UNRA said at the time.

"We anticipate that this intervention will be completed in three months."

Murchison Falls National Park has a smooth drive but with many restrictions

The Karuma Falls Bridge was constructed in 1963 to help the cotton farmers in northern Uganda to cross the river.

It is a narrow, single carriageway bridge without pedestrian or bicycle lanes and no monitoring equipment, leaving it prone to major accidents.

The diversion of traffic through Uganda's biggest national park that sprawls 3,840 square kilometres had sent chills down the spines of animal conservationists, who said huge traffic would scare wildlife.

UNRA said the alternative route is fully paved and involves a shorter distance of about 20km of travel through the Murchison Falls National Park, significantly reducing the impact on wildlife movement and behaviour.

The Luwero-Kafu through Masindi and Paraa route that is now limited to buses and lighter vehicles that chose to pay park fees covers over 70km of paved road.

"This is further intended to protect and conserve Uganda’s rich wildlife heritage by significantly cutting down on the inconvenience, distress and disturbance to wildlife," UNRA spokesperson Allan Ssempebwa said.

In a rejoinder, Mr Ssempebwa told the Nile Post that buses do not pose as much threat as trucks and lorries, have minimal engine noise, breakdown issues, among others.

The government plans to construct a cable bridge similar to the New River Nile Bridge in Jinja City to replace Karuma.

UNRA said this will provide a long-term solution to this transportation challenge.

In the interim, the roads Authority has its engineers working on repairs to ensure smooth and full restoration of traffic until a permanent solution is in place.

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