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Emergency repairs on Mozambique’s main north-south highway (EN1) in the central province of Sofala have so far improved stretches of about 50 kilometres, leaving the Minister of Public Works, Joao Machatine, cautiously optimistic, according to a report on the independent television station STV.
EN1 runs for about 600 kilometres through Sofala, but much of the road is in such poor condition that it takes more than 15 hours to make the journey between the two rivers marking the boundaries of the province, the Save in the south, and the Zambezi in the north.
The worst stretch is the 300 kilometres between the Inchope crossroads, and Caia, on the Zambezi, which is pitted with enormous potholes. It was here that the emergency repairs began in September.
This is the second time the Inchope-Caia stretch has under gone major work in less than a decade and a half. After the first rehabilitation, the then Minister of Transport, Antonio Fernando, in 2007, boasted to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, that the road was no longer a nightmare, but was “like a race track”.
Yet within a decade the nightmarish conditions were back, and this has never been fully explained, although no doubt the overloading of trucks severely damaged the road’s surface. Like most Mozambican roads, the Inchope-Caia stretch had no toll gates, and hence no money for routine maintenance.
This road is vital for the transport of people and goods between the various regions of the country. If it becomes completely impassable, there will be no overland transport between northern and southern Mozambique.
Thoroughgoing repairs on EN1 in Sofala would cost about 500 million dollars, and the government simply does not have this sum. Hence the option for emergency repairs in the most critical places, which are budgeted at two billion meticais (about 33 million dollars).
Machatine told reporters it would take a long time to mobilise the funds necessary for complete reconstruction of the damaged stretches, “and this would have a negative impact on the economic and social development of the country. So we decided to advance with emergency repairs”.
Three months after the repairs began, Machatine found that between Inchope and Canda, a stretch of 100 kilometres, the work was proceeding at an acceptable pace.
“This encourages us”, he said. “We can say that we are witnessing the end of the calvary on EN1”. Although there was still a great deal of work to be done, he believed it would be completed on time.
On the northernmost part of this road, four kilometres have been completed, from Caia to Nangue – but for the next stage, from Nangue to Matondo, the contractor told Machatine that equipment is still being mobilised.
“We challenged the contractor who has this stretch to join the contractor who has already done the four kilometres between Caia and Nangue and form a joint venture so that they can deal quickly with the road from Nangue to Matondo”, said Machatine.
On the final stretch, the 100 kilometres from Matondo to Canda, Machatine found that the work was delayed. “The justification they gave us is that this contractor is also mobilising equipment, and that everything will be done to comply with the deadline for finishing the job, which is September next year”, he said.
Preparations are also under way for rehabilitating the bridge over the Save river, which marks the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane provinces, and building a new bridge. The bridge was built over 50 years ago, and there are both speed and weight limits on the bridge. The maximum cargo allowed on the bridge is 38 tonnes.
Currently a temporary metallic bridge is being thrown across the river, which will allow traffic to continue to flow along EN1 during the maintenance work, which is scheduled to last a year. The metallic bridge will be an improvement on the existing bridge, in that it can carry a maximum weight of 48 tonnes.Source: AIM