BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
THE cash-strapped Transport ministry has decided to abandon the expensive 1970 highly-sophisticated low-lying Chilonga Bridge design, opting for a cheaper model that will be constructed several metres from the original killer bridge.
The development was revealed by Masvingo provincial road engineer, Peter Robert Mukome on the sidelines of the devolution meeting held at Chitsanga Hall in Tshovani last week.
“We have decided to abandon the initial design because it needed what we call a pilling foundation which costs US$20 million. For your own information, we have been allocated a paltry ZWR$8 million, so we have discovered that the money was not adequate to complete the project. It was only meant for the construction of a substructure of the 532-metre-long bridge.
He went on to add that they have made a resolution to choose a new site, with a firm rock where they are going to use mass concrete. The engineers are locally-based, making the project cheaper.
“We have done our cost-benefit-analysis and nominal returns on investment and we have seen that it is more economical. After quantifying the initial approach and the current approach, we realised there is more saving in the current approach.
“We can’t give a specific date when we are going to start the project because we have a new Act which is called the Public Procurement and Disposal Act which we have to deal with,” Mukome said.
Thirteen years ago, government pledged to construct a new bridge across Runde River in Chilonga, east of Chiredzi at a cost of ZW$200 billion, and in February last year, it also claimed that it had availed $3 million through the Transport ministry for the construction of the low-lying bridge, but to date the project remains a pipe dream.
A number of people have in the past lost their lives trying to cross the flooded low-lying Chilonga Bridge.
Recently a Chiredzi Rural District Council employee was swept away at the bridge. His body was found seven days later, about 20 kilometres downstream. A bus was also swept off the same bridge during Cyclone Idai-induced floods.
Last year, a motorist and his three children were swept away while trying to cross the flooded river, bringing to 19 the number of people who have so far died at the bridge.
At one time, the Department of Civil Protection resolved to mount 24-hour roadblocks on both sides of the river to deter motorists from crossing the flooded river.