Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Roads constitute a significant aspect of any nation’s development. For proper economic progress to take place, the establishment of a good road network linking major towns and cities as well as more remote locations is vital. A good road network helps to:
* Ensure the free and fast movement of people and goods.
* Open up access to remote and otherwise inaccessible areas
* Link production areas with places where goods can be marketed
In the light of these, roads such as the Westfield/Sukuta road are very critical. Serekunda is a very important town in the country (some argue that it should be regarded as a city). It is one of the most densely populated areas in the country and has what is probably the country’s most important and frequented markets.
The prevailing bad condition of this important road has cost us a lot not only in terms of the hardships encountered by communities, but economically as well. The health problems arising from the very dusty and unhygienic nature of the road should not also be overlooked. That is why the ongoing Westfield-Sukuta Road Reconstruction project is being applauded by all stakeholders.
Speaking on this issue at a stakeholders workshop at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi, Alhaji Ebrima Cham, Director General of Gamworks, reiterated the fact that the current “condition of the Westfield to Sukuta Road is very poor, which prevents the efficient movement of goods and passengers on this important route.” “This project will reconstruct the road from Westfield junction, past the busy market and commercial area of Serrekunda, through Sukuta and link up with the Coastal Road leading to the Senegambia Tourism Development Area and the Banjul International Airport,” he added.
According to him the length of the road is 7.5km. The road, designed by Arab Consulting Engineers of Egypt in collaboration with Cityscape Association of The Gambia, will be built to modern standards. It will feature a two-lane carriageway with parking bays and concreted sidewalks, drains, street lighting and traffic lights at major junctions. The Bakoteh bridge will also be demolished and rebuilt, according to the director general, and the stream itself dredged, thus improving drainage conditions in the locality. He also revealed that the “agreed contract price for the reconstruction of the Westfield to Sukuta Road is D204,041021.47 (two hundred and four million, forty-one thousand and twenty-one dalasis and forty-seven bututs).
Whilst thanking the various parties who had contributed to the successful implementation of the project, and noting that the contractor is making good progress, he noted that there are still challenges and constraints ahead and expressed the hope that with the participation of all stakeholders, some of this issues, which could hinder the smooth implementation of the works will be addressed.
The SoS for Finance and Economic Affairs, while reiterating the points made by the Gamworks DG, explained that this project is in line with the vision of President Yahya Jammeh and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). According to him, this project is a brainchild of the president, and it was he (the president) who insisted that the “road design should have drains, sidewalks and street lighting.” Since the government of The Gambia has made a significant investment in the reconstruction of this road, he added that it is expected that all parties – such as the contractor and Gamworks – to ensure that the road is built to specifications and is completed on time. This is part of President Jammeh’s vision for the country.
Lamin Bojang, the SoS for Works, Construction and Infrastructure, made the point that the road is one of the most important links in the urban network and provides access to a large population of the KMC; and is in line with the framework of the PRSP and other development goals and will facilitate the free and efficient movement of people and goods. He added that “one of the greatest challenges is the relocation of public services” and called on NAWEC and other service providers to ensure that unnecessary delays are avoided.
SoS Bojang also expressed great confidence in the implementing parties, particularly Gamworks, as they have done a good job so far. He implored them to learn from the bottlenecks experienced in other projects and work to make the road complete so that the suffering of the people on this road will be brought to an end. An important point was raised by the governor of the Western Region, who advised the users of the road, once completed, not to abuse the road, as according to him, reckless driving leads to needless casualties.
This point should be noted by all parties. Maintenance is another important issue that should be looked into. Roads are very expensive to build. Thus, there is no need to spend exorbitant amounts of money building one, if it is not going to last long. This is where the National Road Authority comes in. They should work to ensure that this road, and all other roads, are well maintained. This is the only way that we can ensure their longevity.