Floods delay bridge projects

News and Press Release
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by Francis Xoagub

ONGWEDIVA – Fearful of flooding, China Henan International Cooperation (CHICO) Group’s construction workers are working frantically around the clock to divert floodwater from a building site, so that they can continue unhindered with the ongoing construction of bridges.

Construction is taking place between Oshiko and the main police roadblock in Ongwediva, as well as Okandjegendi Bridge between Oshakati and Ongwediva. The project, which is scheduled to be completed by January 2013 and allow the main highway to operate normally south of Ongwediva, is now temporarily delayed, said a construction worker employed by the company.

“The contractor has moved his equipment out of the area due to the threat of significant flooding. If flooding continues, we will be prompted to stop building,” said the source.

When New Era visited the project this morning, workers were diverting the floodwater with an excavator, but this seemed an impossible job as the floodwater moving past the bridge and eroding part of the embankment.

“As it looks now, we will remobilize to the area once floodwaters subside or the threat passes. But if the flood continues, we have to stop working,” said another official representing KPU Joint Venture who requested anonymity.

He added that the builders are happy with the progress made thus far on the project. The source said work on Okandjegendi Bridge has also been delayed due to the flooding. The bridge will be constructed with specially imported pillars from South Africa.

Crew began working on the project in September 2011 following a high-profile ground-breaking ceremony.

So far, only 18 percent of the project has been completed, according to the company. Flooding is expected along the Cuvelia Basin and in the northern part of the country.

Hydrologists predict the impact of floods in 2012 is expected to surpass that of 2011 – given that it has started raining early and it is raining heavily in some of the northern regions.

The situation could worsen should the area experience an above-average rainfall over the next few weeks.

A consulting company of the project, Knight Piesold, is anticipating a delay in the construction of the bridge as well as widening of the road.

Even if the flooding is minimal, the rising water due to torrential rain will likely cause the water level to rise considerably since the water will have no place to go. A time line on possible flooding is expected to be more accurately known once the water moves further downstream.

“It is likely that additional water will flood the area, and with the rising water, it is not possible for work to continue on the bridge,” said other officials. “We will continue to monitor the flooding, and the contractors will get back in there as soon as physically possible.”

While concerns were raised about the increased traffic along the road linking the central part with Oshakati and Ongwediva, few accidents have occurred. An increased police presence has also focused on slowing motorists.

The Ongwediva Bridge had been in disrepair in recent years.

The new bridges at Okandjedgendi and Ongwediva are expected to cost around N$44 million.