Construction of controversial floating bridge continuing

16 Oct 2014 15:00pm
RUNDU, 16 OCT (NAMPA) - The construction of the controversial floating bridge by the Angolan government over the shared Okavango River will go ahead as planned.
The construction of the bridge started in June this year, but was put on hold in July after some Rundu residents and tourism operators expressed concern over the construction of the bridge.
It caused an uproar amongst residents and tourism operators at Rundu, who said that once finished, the bridge would obstruct the free movement of boats and other water transportation on that river.
The 250-metre-long bridge is aimed at making it easier for people to move to and from the two countries.
On the Namibian side, the bridge will anchor at Rundu, while it will anchor at Calai in southern Angola.
However, there is no opening on the bridge to allow for traffic on the river such as fishing boats and canoes, or for the movement of big animals such as hippopotamuses.
Angola’s Deputy Governor for Economics in the Cuando-Cubango Province, Ernesto Fernando and a number of delegates from Minonge on Wednesday visited the floating bridge.
Fernando told reporters soon after touring the bridge that its construction will go ahead, adding that the Angolan government is financing it for an undisclosed amount.
The Cuando-Cubano Deputy Governor explained that the bridge is temporary, and a permanent bridge is still to be built.
He added that it is expected to increase trade and investment between the two countries, especially between the town of Rundu and the Calai municipality of Angola.
“We need to improve our relationship in terms of cooperation, and this bridge will facilitate that in terms of the movement of goods as well as services between the two countries,” stressed Fernando.
He further indicated that the construction of the floating bridge was suspended as there were some technical issues which needed to be sorted out between the two parties.
The Kavango Regional Council’s Chief Control Officer Bonny Kahare, who represented Kavango East Governor Dr. Samuel Mbambo, said the construction of the bridge is the result of a bilateral agreement between the two governments.
He underscored the importance of the bridge, saying it will facilitate trade and the safer movements of Rundu and Calai inhabitants.
Kahare, who is also Rundu’s deputy mayor, said an agreement for the construction of the multi-million dollar permanent bridge is expected to be signed on 03 November.
Meanwhile, the construction of a gravel road leading to the floating bridge on the Namibian side has already commenced.
The construction of the bridge was put on hold after Namibian media reported on a peaceful demonstration by several boat owners, local fishermen and other residents at the site airing their grievances.
Some lodge owners, workers and guests in the region also use the river to access Rundu in times of flooding when roads become inaccessible.
A member of the Crockango Angling Club in the two Kavango regions, Mauro Rosa told Nampa earlier that the floating bridge would affect recreational fishing.
He said local fishermen pay recreational fishing and boat permits to use the river, but their movements will be restricted once the bridge is in place.
“The Fisheries’ Inspectorate and the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) will also not be able to patrol downstream from the Rundu beach to Calai with their boats,” Rosa said then.
Another concerned resident, Liz Hilger, earlier stated that the movement of some animals such as hippos will be blocked.