Busy Road to Be Upgraded

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The largest ever multi-million dollar Rundu-Elundu road-upgrading project in the Kavango and Ohangwena regions is likely to commence early next year. The 370-km gravel road, that will be transformed to bitumen standard, is estimated at N$810.5 million, making it the largest single road project ever embarked upon in Namibia after independence. The road stretches from Rundu to Siko, Nkurenkuru, Mpungu and Okongo and ends at Elundu on the existing bitumen road east of Eenhana. Given the magnitude of this undertaking, in August the government signed a loan agreement with the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) to co-finance this project. Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Stefanus Mogotsi yesterday revealed that negotiations took a good four years. Based on the agreement, JBIC will avail N$607.8 million (75%) of the project. This loan is payable in 15 years at an annual interest rate of 0.9% with five years grace period. The remaining N$202.7 million (25%) of the work will be financed by the Namibian government and for the current year N$20 million was allocated to the project. This amount was transferred to the Road Fund Administration for use by the implementing agent, the Roads Authority, Mogotsi added. An additional N$50 million is earmarked by the government for the 2007/8 financial year. The first phase of the project will be the upgrading of the Rundu-Nkurenkuru road. Tender documents have already been submitted to JBIC for approval and the advertising of the tender internationally will be done next month. “Considering the time required for contractors to submit tenders, tenders to be evaluated … the reasonable time to have a contractor on the site is May 2007,” he said. It is however planned that the bitumen road on this section will be completed in February 2009. While construction work for phase one will be in progress, the Roads Authority is expected to concurrently appoint a consultant to prepare the detailed design for the second phase of the project, which is the road from Nkurenkuru to Elundu. With all the procedures followed and approved by the JBIC, this detail design is expected to complete by April 2008 with the tendering process stretching till December the same year. The second phase will have two construction contracts running in parallel. One will be from Nkurenkuru to Okongo and another from Elundu to Okongo. This will be done to speed up the project. According to the deputy minister, construction work will begin in early 2009 for phase two and the project should be completed in 2010. “The ministry wishes to appeal to the public to be patient and trust that the government is committed to implementing this project with diligence but also in respect of all technical process and procedures,” Mogotsi appealed. Some members of the public have complained that government is rather giving first priority to the northern railway project, forgetting the bad road situation in some parts of the country. On this Mogotsi commented that the public should ignore the detractors who are deliberately carrying out such disinformation campaigns against the project. Governor of the Kavango, John Thighuru, confirmed that the road is currently in a bad shape. He added that motorists have to drive at a slow pace and that during summer it is very dusty while during the rainy season the road is a nightmare due to the mud. Though he could not provide figures, he added a lot of accidents have occurred on the road. Once the two-lane road upgrading is done, he was optimistic that it would boost trade between Namibia and other neigbouring countries especially that the road connects to the Trans-Caprivi highway. “The road will also be a shortcut to reach Ruacana, especially for people traveling from Katima Mulilo,” he said.