Govt Probes Rundu Floating Bridge

THE Ministry of Works and Transport says it will soon dispatch a team to investigate the construction of a floating bridge on the Okavango River between Rundu and Calai, after complaints by activists that the bridge was an environmental hazard.

Residents said the bridge, about 10 kilometres from Rundu below the Kaisosi Sewage Ponds, has put all their economic activities and traffic to a standstill.

The Namibian is informed that a group of Rundu residents protested on 5 July after an agitated resident hippo bull that was unable to find its way under the structure became a threat to people.

Works permanent secretary Peter Mwatile said he has called for an investigation into the construction of the bridge because nothing was communicated to his office about the project.

“From what we gathered from the Angolan government two years ago, a construction agreement is still to be signed concerning a bridge as part of our bilateral relations to improve trade. So the ongoing construction activities are taking place without our consent,” Mwatile said.

He said when such construction takes place, the community should be consulted and a thorough environmental assessment be made. He said he was not sure if proper procedures were followed.

Mwatile said he suspects that the construction of the bridge could have followed an agreement between officials in Rundu and the Angolan governor in Calai.

In a letter addressed to Mwatile dated 7 July 2014, the Okavango Basin Management Committee Executive (OkBMC) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, said it was alerted by the Kavango Open Africa Route of concerns over the river basin and the floating bridge.

“OkBMC is concerned about the ecological and sociological implications of this bridge, which in our opinion, will impede a watercourse flow. This includes NamPol, customs, ministries of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Environment and Tourism patrol boats,” said the letter.

A concerned resident, Elizabeth Hilger, said there was not any “environmental impact assessment done or consideration given to international laws that governed shared rivers”.

Governor of Kavango East Samuel Mbambo said all he knew was that the bridge was part of an initiative by the Namibian and Angolan governments to improve trade relations and movement between the two countries.

“It is a temporary bridge that will be replaced by a permanent one,” he said, adding that he did not have much information and referred The Namibian to the works ministry.

Mwatile said the investigation team will include individuals from his ministry, as well as that of environment and agriculture. He also said the Angolan government will be consulted.

The Angolan Consul, General Osvaldo Jesus, said his office was in talks with the local government concerning the bridge.

“I cannot say anything at this point in time. I will get back to you with our response soon,” he said.

Source : The Namibian