KAMPALA — Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has urged Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to consider the Tuesday explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut as an eye-opener to Uganda in regard to explosives.
She tasked the Premier to direct institutions responsible for health and safety measures in factories and institutions with explosive and volatile substances to take precautionary measures so that Uganda does not suffer calamity.
Kadaga made a statement during her communication to the Wednesday afternoon plenary in which she informed MPs about the Beirut explosion that left 100 people dead and more than 4,000 injured. Currently, there is a search by rescue workers in the city for other people who are missing.
BBC news quotes President Michel Aoun attributing the blast to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored in a warehouse. Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertilizer as well as an explosive.
The Ammonium nitrate is reported to have been stored in a warehouse after it was unloaded from a ship impounded in 2013.
Kadaga directed the observance of a minute of silence for the lives lost during the explosion also noting the numerous petrol stations around residential areas. She said that these could cause danger to the population and hence a need for government to intervene.
There have been concerns in the past about the escalating numbers of petrol stations and single fuel pumps in ungazetted areas like residential places posing safety threats on communities.
According to 2011 statistics from the Ministry of Energy, 220 of 730 petrol stations across the country are in the capital Kampala. Majority of these are close to each other and located on junctions.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is mandated to issue licences to petrol stations with approval from the Ministry of Energy and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). These according to the Petroleum Supply General Regulations, 2009 are supposed to be located in industrial or commercial zones.
In July 2019, KCCA told Uganda Radio Network-URN that it had halted issuing any new licenses for fuel operators within the city and that it also did not intend to renew some licenses. According to Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) guidelines, a fuel station must be located at least 1,000 metres away from another.