Gravel roads in the north have become a nightmare to councillors and communities, who say many of these roads are neglected and some no longer serve the purpose for which they were constructed.
Head of communication at the Ministry of Works and Transport Julius Ngweda admitted there are financial constraints preventing service providers from properly maintaining roads, but maintained that 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 (RA) 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 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,” Ngweda said.
A number of councillors that spoke to New Era, claim the current state of gravel roads threatens accessibility to their constituencies or parts of constituencies that were previously inaccessible by cars prior to the establishment of such roads.
Some of the gravel roads are no longer in use and road users are now using alternative earth roads.
Motorists driving through Omuntele in Oshikoto and Uukwiyuushona in Oshana report that cars are getting stuck on gravel roads that have become very sandy and impossible for smaller vehicles to drive on.
Councillor of Uuvudhiya Constituency Amutenya gwaNahafa expressed concern that most of the areas in his constituency would be soon cut off if nothing is done.
GwaNdahafa said on several occasion he consulted RA, but he has not been given any 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 refuel them. What we understand is that RCC (Road Construction Company) is broke. There is no money for fuel,” said the councilor, who claimed to be a member of Oshana Region Road committee.
Ngweda, however, insisted that all proclaimed roads are maintained by the maintenance division of RA, which is funded by government from public funds and Road Fund Administration (RFA), using funds from road user levies.
Work on road maintenance is usually outsourced to contractors. He, however, could not sayl how much government spends on the maintenance of gravel roads.
Ngweda said government allocates funds for road maintenance of both paved and unpaved roads within the funding limits for the project, as prescribed by the National Planning Commission (NPC).
He would also not confirm or deny allegations that eight excavators are parked in Oshana Region due to the lack of money for fuel. He, however, said RFA is investigating the possibility of increasing the number of GRUs to eight next year.
The increase in the number of GRUs will improve RA’s capacity to maintain gravel roads, although it will still not be enough, considering the capacity of each GRU compared to the length of the unpaved roads that need maintenance, Ngweda noted.