Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Bureau
Using starch enzymes mixed with gravel to make the surface layers of hard-wearing gravel roads is now likely to come to Zimbabwe as the Government is looking at setting up the necessary plant to manufacture the enzymes, Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Mike Madiro said yesterday.
The nanotechnology required has been adopted to improve rural gravel roads in many developed countries, producing far more durable roads that are still a lot cheaper than hard-surface bitumen-coated roads.
The advantages for Zimbabwe are many.
Not only would rural roads be tougher and with longer-lasting surfaces, but the enzyme addition would be local, not imported, and significant employment would be created in the road-making sectors.
Speaking during the tour of the Alaska-Copper Queen Road in Makonde District, which connects Mashonaland West with the Midlands and shortens the distance between Harare and Gokwe North District by over 100km, Deputy Minister Madiro said perennial road grading was impacting the environment and chewing up huge sums of money.
Year-in-year-out, we are grading our roads and in the province we are creating siltation of our rivers and dams by taking a layer of the road which is taken away by the rains,” he said.
The idea of nanotechnology is to come up with a product strong enough to resist seasonal rain so that we give a longer period in terms of durability of the roads
The technology creates smaller particles in terms of compaction and in the process denies rain to sift through and create gaps which collapse the road.
Deputy Minister Madiro said the materials needed for the technology were locally available and once approved by experts will save by half the amount required to construct a gravel road.
Turning to the Alaska-Copper Queen Road, whose upgrade works have commenced after a three-year hiatus, Deputy Minister Madiro said gravelling and rework on damaged bridges will be done while tar surfacing of the first phase will be done by February next year.
The Government has since awarded the tender to a local company, Fossil Construction, which has already done at least 20km of the 65km stretch.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is emphasising economic empowerment and emancipation and this is achievable if roads are passable. Our rural communities are the key drivers of the agriculture economy which is the county’s economic bedrock and as such, transportation of inputs and farm produce need passable roads.’’
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister and area legislator, Kindness Paradza who accompanied Deputy Minister Madiro, said the road rehabilitation and subsequent upgrade will reduce transport fares.
People were being charged fares of at least US$7 for a 30km stretch but since the rehabilitation of the first 20km from Alaska, fares have dropped to as low as US$2, he said.
While many transporters of inputs and farm produce were shunning the route, those that opt to provide services were charging exorbitant prices.
Makonde Rural District Council chairman Alderman Simbarashe Ziyambi said the road works have lessened the burden on the council and farmers who have been taking it upon themselves to make it fairly passable.
Villagers are also happy over the resumption of the rehabilitation and upgrade.