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River Nyamwamba Changes Colour, Residents Fear Poisoning

Jessica Nyamukonzo a resident of Katiri Parish in Kilembe Sub County says her parish entirely depends on river Nyamwamba for domestic water since there is no piped water.
Water in River Nyamwamba as seen from near the defunct kilembe mines factory

Audio 4



A strange colour and strong stench covering River Nyamwamba in Kasese District over the last few months has triggered fear of contamination among residents who depend on its water for domestic consumption, suspecting it could be polluted with copper and cobalt minerals.

The residents suspect that the contaminants  are deposits of mineral left unprocessed and copper waste deposited along the river has been getting eroded into the river water whenever it rains. 

Lately the water has changed its colour to brown.  The most affected are residents of Kilembe Sub County where a number of piped water lines were destroyed by floods in 2020. 

The water source is also characterized by crowding by animals and serves at least a population of over 7,000 people including the over 2,000 students from both Bulembia and Katiri primary schools which are adjacent to the river.

Over 1,000 residents staying in Kilembe Mines estates are also consuming water from a few remaining rusty metallic pipes. 

Jessica Nyamukonzo, a resident of Katiri Parish in Kilembe Sub County says her parish entirely depends on the river Nyamwamba for domestic water since there is no piped water. 

She adds that cases of typhoid have also increased in the sub-county parish and attributes the rise to the consumption of contaminated water.

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Joyce Maloba from Road Barrier also in Kilembe, is concerned that people in the area may be poisoned since they don’t have alternative sources of water. 

She adds that many households are unable to buy water from the public taps and end up using that from the river.

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Agnes Bira from Nyanjuki ward in Kilembe says the lack of alternative sources forces residents to drink the contaminated water resulting, into suffering from a range of waterborne diseases. 

  

She has asked the government to cooperate with Kilembe mines to refurbish the water system in the area.

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Banarbus Kugoza, a farmer in Mubuku noted that he is worried that the seemingly contaminated water might also affect their crops.

He says the water colour changed in 2020 when there were mass floods in the district. 

“We need the government to come in and make studies to establish why the water has changed its colour and if it will have impacts on our crops, we have not had a good harvest in the last two seasons," Kugonza said.

Richard Bwomera, the LCIII Bulembia Division says stopping the communities from drawing water from the contaminated sources without alternative options is not feasible. 

He rather advises that the residents could start to treat or boil their water thoroughly to prevent disease.

Augustine Kooli, the Kasese District environment officer confirms to URN reporter that indeed the water is contaminated since it passes through a mining area. 

He adds that at the moment there are no control measures but the district authorities have written to government through the ministry of water to direct conduction of laboratory tests on the water quality.

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