By CLEVER ZULU-
THE Link Zambia 8,000 road project has started reaping the intended benefits for the local people where the projects are taking place.
Roads are mostly expected to benefit motorists and other people that commute regularly, but that is not the case in most cases in Muchinga and Northern provinces where the Link Zambia 8,000 road project is taking shape.
Iris Lungu a resident of Chama District, who is a mother of two, said even if she does not own a vehicle, the roads that are being tarred for the first in the area have eased fears on her children who used to refuse to go to school because of the thick forest on the roadside and the poor state.
“My children are now going to school without any fears as they can enjoy a walk on the tarred roads without fear of snakes in the bush,” she said.
Ms Lungu said since the roads are now being tarred, motorists are expected to come to the districts and start offering basic transport services.
Lameck Nkhoma a worker with China Civil Engineering Construction (CCECC), said he was happy because he was able to save and buy agricultural inputs.
“This job is just okay because I can buy farming inputs and save some money to start a small business,” he said after benefiting from the more than 600 jobs created on the Lot One of the project.
Andrew Mkandawire, a farmer, said the Government was doing a good job as he had been able to transport his produce without much difficult even before the road was complete.
“Some sections of the road that have been done have reduced the rough distance that we used to endure when taking our cotton or rice to Lundazi for marketing,” he added.
Chama District which thrives on cotton, rice and other agricultural activities is seeing the 12 kilometres township road being upgraded under Lot One of the Chama–Matumbo Road.
Lot One will see the upgrading to bituminous standard of 32 kilometres of the road from Muyombe junction into Chama District, 42 kilometres from Chama to Luangwa River including 12 kilometres of township roads in Chama.
The K371.2 million projects being implemented by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is 57 per cent complete and is expected to be completed by January 15, 2015, according to resident engineer Michael Banda from Eastconsult.
“The contractor is moving at a good pace and we are hopeful that the project will be completed on time despite the realignment to avoid the hills,” he said.
Mr Banda, however, bemoaned the high rate of vandalism occurring on the project.
“Our beacons are being removed by residents together with road signage. We hope these people can be educated on the dangers of vandalism,” he said.
Road Development Agency (RDA) Muchinga Province manager Samuel Twasa said the road would connect Eastern, Muchinga, Northern and Luapula provinces once the whole stretch is done.
“Four provinces will be connected and that will enhance agricultural activities in those areas as well as give a boost to tourism in the game management area,” he said.
The Chama–Matumbo Road will see another 42 kilometres stretch from Chama town to Luangwa River being upgraded to bituminous standard.
To complete the stretch, Lot Two has reached an advanced stage from Matumbo on Great North Road to Luangwa River in Muchinga Province.
“The progress on this road is 40 per cent and we are hopeful the contractor will execute the project within the 36 months duration,” said resident engineer Alfred Kambikambi of Zulu Burrow development consultants.
Mr Kambikambi said cement was scarce and theft of diesel amounted to some of the small challenges on the project but overall he was happy with the K399 million project which is being executed by China Jiangxi Construction Company.
The Chama–Matumbo Road once copleted would see Muchinga and Eastern provinces being connected to provide a shorter route and reduce travelling time between the two agricultural provinces. Furthermore, Northern and Luapula provinces will have a shorter route to Eastern Province which has seen the operation of the Chipata–Mchinji rail from the port of Nacara in Mozambique.
For many years citizens have called on the diversification of the economy from dependence on mines and minerals to agriculture.
Thus, the move to connect provinces and provide shorter links and good roads to markets in the Link Zambia 8,000 road project was already yielding results as people could move their produce with ease and less costs even before the roads are fully upgraded.
Jobs have also been created in the road sector, while the economy in places like Chama has improved tremendously.
“People now have buying power which has led to investors coming in to set up businesses,” said District Commissioner Josphat Lombe.
Mr Lombe said due to easy accessibility to Chama, farmers have now upped their produce such as rice with 52,000 of 50 kilogramme bags of rice being cultivated according to the data given to him by the private sector who are marketing the rice.
“The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will this year start buying rice because farmers have now increased their produce owing to easy access to the market place,” he added.
Cotton, maize and tobacco are other crops that are grown in the area.
During the tour of the road projects taking place in the Northern and Muchinga provinces recently, Road Development Agency (RDA) senior manager public relations Loyce Saili said it was much cheaper to have paved (tarred) roads than gravel roads which need maintenance more often.
“Zambia has the road network of 67,000 kilometres and only 9000 kilometres of the roads are paved. Gravel roads are difficult and expensive to maintain,especially when it is rainy season,” she said.
Apart from the Chama–Matumbo Road and Chama township roads, the other road projects have reached an advanced stage in Muchinga and Northern provinces.
The 171 kilometres K421.7 million Kasam –Mporokoso Road is progressing well with 75 kilometres worked on while the remaining 96 kilometres is expected to be done by March 2016 after an 18 months delay.
“We issued a negative variation on this road meaning that we wanted to reduce the scope of work for this contractor but they have shown seriousness and brought in more equipment and manpower,” she added, easing the worries of residents who are waiting to have an upgraded road since independence.
Ms Saili said RDA was confident and hopeful that the road would be completed within the extended completion period.
The Kasama–Mporokoso Road was initially scheduled to complete in September 2014 but the contractor delayed the project which prompted RDA to withdraw a portion of the road but the contractor has now improved his workmanship and the road is now in advanced stage.
Resident engineer SikderSelimuzzaman said the project has seen 515 people employed with 75 being women.
Another project that is progressing well is the Mbala –Nakonde Road where China CAMC Construction is progressing well.
The K 171 kilometres stretch is set for upgrading to bituminous standard with 18 kilometres already completed with road signage giving a glimpse of what a marvel the road that connects two agricultural districts will look when completed in June 2016 at a cost of US$180 million.
Resident engineer Mohammed Abdul Majid of Bari engineering said the road was expected to be completed within the stipulated working period as there are no huge challenges on the project.
Another successful project is the Kasama–Mbesuma Road which is 98 per cent complete with savings from the project seeing the eight kilometres of Mungwi District township roads done.
Other savings from the same project have been channelled to upgrade 10 kilometres of the road from Kasama to Lukupa community at a cost of K 22.26 million.
Road Development Agency (RDA) Northern Region engineer planning and development Jonas Mukwatu said the Kasama–Lukupa Road will give access to the community health centre in Lukupa and the site of the Lukupa nursing school.
Kasama is just more than 200 kilometres from Chinsali town but due to the poor state of the road from Chinsali to Kasama people are forced to use a longer route via Mpika.
To provide a shorter link to Chinsali, the Mulilansolo to Chinsali and to Safwa road will be upgraded and work has since begun.
Work on Lot Two where Sino Hydro Construction Company was expected to upgrade and realign 100 kilometres of the road had started from Kasama to Mulilansolo at a cost of K295.6 million.
The project is expected to take 24 months from May 2014.
Lot One has been assigned to Rubex Construction Company who had started the mobilisation process.
With impressive progress being recorded in most of the roads being done in Muchinga and Northern provinces, the Isoka–Muyombe Road progress under China Jiangxi Construction Company has not impressed RDA.
“The contractor is taking a lot of time and we are now forced to compel him to find a subcontractor and complete the road which was expected to be done in 2013,” Ms Saili said.
The 90 kilometres stretch under Lot One will cost K231.8 million from Isoka to Itontela School.
“The contractor had challenges with the design of the road so we extended the project up to 2015 but we will not allow for more delays as people of Muyombe need a good road,” Ms Saili said.
The upgrading of the roads will not only see easy access within districts and provinces but will also shorten links to markets thus enhancing commerce, trade and tourism, while beautifying the country after 50 years of independence.
According to the response from the residents in areas where the roads are being upgraded, the Government is indeed doing well in linking the nation, while the intended purpose for the major multibillion kwacha Link Zambia 8,000 project has started showing in some of the areas where the roads are being constructed.