Gravel roads in the north are becoming a nightmare to councillors and community members alike, with many claiming the roads have been neglected for too long and some no longer serve their purpose.
Although he admits there are financial constraints preventing service providers from properly maintaining these roads, head of media and communication at the Ministry of Works and Transport Julius Ngweda said it is not entirely true that gravel roads are not maintained at all.
“The truth of the matter is that due to resource constraints the standard of maintenance provided is no longer ideal. Because of financial constraints, Roads Authority is only using four Gravel Replacement Units (GRU) countrywide when they require 14 units: a unit per region.
“Each GRU has the capacity to cover 120 km of road a year. These limitations have practically forced [Road Authority] RA to prioritise roads carrying higher volumes of traffic above those carrying less traffic. Efforts will however continue to be made to ensure that all roads are kept trafficable,” said Ngweda.
Councillors that spoke to New Era claim the current state of gravel roads threatens accessibility to their constituencies, or to part of their constituencies, that were entirely inaccessible to cars prior to the establishment of such roads.
In fact some of the gravel roads are no longer in use and road users are instead using alternative earthen roads.
In areas like Omuntele Constituency in Oshikoto and Uukwiyuushona Constituency in Oshana, cars have been getting stuck in gravel roads that have become very sandy, making it impossible for smaller vehicles to pass.
Councillor of Uuvudhiya Constituency Amutenya gwaNahafa fears most of the areas in his constituency would soon be cut off, if nothing is done to save the situation. GwaNdahafa said on several occasions he consulted the Roads Authority, but he has not been given a satisfactory answer.
Another councillor from Oshana, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he too has reported the condition of gravel roads in his constituency, but nothing was done.
“Oshana Region alone has eight excavators, but they are just lying there. Apparently there is no money to fuel them. What we understand is that RCC (Road Construction Company is broke. There is no money for fuel,” said the councillor, who is a member of the Oshana Region Road Committee.
Ngweda however maintainened all proclaimed roads are maintained by the Roads Authority’s maintenance division funded by government from public funds and Road Fund Administration (RFA) from the road user levies and work is outsourced to contractors.
He, however, could not say how much government spends on the maintenance of gravel roads. According to Ngweda, government allocates funds for the maintenance of both paved and unpaved roads within the funding limits for the project, as prescribed by the National Planning Commission. Ngweda could not confirm or deny allegations though that eight ex excavators are parked in Oshana Region due to lack of money for fuel
He, however, said the RFA is investigating the possibility of increasing the number of GRU’s to eight in the next financial year.
The increment in the number of GRUs will improve the RA’s capacity to maintain gravel roads, although it will still not be enough, considering the capacity of each GRU against the length of the unpaved roads that need maintenance, Ngweda explained.