Dozens of washing bays in Mbarara municipality operate without soak pits. Soak pits are meant to drain dirty water from the washing bays to prevent it from running into open water sources.
According to Mbarara Municipal Health Department, only 100 washing bays are licensed to operate in the municipality. Many others operate illegally. As one of the conditions for operating, each washing bay is expected to put in a place soak pit.
Our reporter moved around Mbarara municipality to establish whether the washing bays have soak pits and established that only those at pump fuel stations have soak pits. The absence of soak pits at most washing bays largely contributes to the pollution of River Rwizi.
Some of the washing bays are found along the river and discharge the dirty water usually containing oils directly into Rwizi. The contamination of the water increases the cost for treating water pumped by National Water and Sewerage Corporation to people’s homes.
One of the washing bays visited by our reporter is Katete Washing Bay near Katete Bridge in Kakooba division. Our reporter saw a number of vehicles and motorcycles being washed a few meters from the river. The runoff water would stream back into the river, since there is no soak pit to drain it.
Jackson Magara, the Proprietor Katete Washing Bay, says the municipal officers are concerned about the license fees. He however, says they have already eviction notices from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).
He however, says their eviction might push them out of business since they have been dependent on free water.
The situation isn’t different at Kiyanja Washing bay. The washing bay also drains its runoff water directly into River Rwizi. Simon Balyeimeki, the Health Inspector Mbarara Municipality, says the absence of soak pits at washing bays leads to contamination of water sources.
Jeconius Musingwire, the NEMA Focal Person for South Western Uganda, says all those operating washing bays that dispose of the water into River Rwizi and other water bodies face closure. He says the activities of such washing bays are a threat to the environment and will not be allowed to continue.
Emanuel Ekanya, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) manager for Western Uganda, blames the huge cost of water treatment on the contamination of River Rwizi and its surroundings. According to Ekanya, due to the heavy contamination of the water bodies, they are forced to ration supply because of quality control.