ECONOMIC development is closely linked to the quality of a countryâ€™s road network which stimulates social interconnection and integration by providing citizens easy access to goods and services.
Against this backdrop, Government has prioritised the construction of roads across the country and has continued to pump colossal sums of money into road construction.
The construction of roads is superintended by the Road Development Agency (RDA), a statutory institution established under the Public Roads Act to provide care, maintenance and construction of public roads across the country.
As part of the continued supervision of road construction, RDA senior manager for public relations Loyce Saili and Guston Meleki, the regional manager for Luapula Province, recently inspected works on selected road projects in the region.
The first stretch Ms Saili and Mr Meleki checked was the 175-kilometre Mansa-Luwingu road, which connects Luapula to Northern Province.
The road, which is under the Link Zambia 8,000 project, is being constructed by China Henan International Corporation and 12 sub-contractors at a cost of US$206 million.
The scope of the project involves upgrading the road from gravel to bituminous standard.
â€œI must say so far the contractor has performed well and is ahead of schedule. The project started in 2013 around October and the due date is January 2017. The contractor has already tarred 55 kilometres and the quality of work is satisfactory,â€ Ms Saili said.
And Mr Meleki said the Mansa-Luwingu road is of immense economic significance to the country as it will boost trade between Luapula and Northern provinces.
The road will provide a shorter route from Nakonde in Muchinga Province to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the distance between the two points will be reduced by about 200 kilometres from over 900 kilometres.
Currently, people travelling from Nakonde to the DRC pass through Kapiri Mposhi in Central Province, Ndola and Mufulira on the Copperbelt before entering DRC through Mokambo border.
Once the road is completed, people will move from Nakonde to Kasama, then Luwingu, Mansa and enter the DRC through the Pedicle Road.
Project consultant Monjit Saha, of BARI Zambia Limited, said that 170 concrete culverts will be laid on the road to prevent flooding in the rainy season.
This project has so far created over 1,000 temporary jobs for the local people since its commencement last year.
Sandra Kapya, one of the people who have benefited from employment created under the project, is happy about the development. Ms Kapya, a level checker, was engaged on the project in November last year.
â€œIâ€™m very grateful to the government and the contractor for giving me the opportunity to work on this project. My family has greatly benefited,â€ she said.
Another worker, Boyd Kaunda, has acquired various skills he never thought he could as a result of working under the project.
â€œCurrently, Iâ€™m the one who is in charge of pumping water from the stream to the tanker. Iâ€™m grateful to President Sata and his administration for creating these opportunities for us youths,â€ Mr Kaunda said.
Many residents of Chipili district are happy about the upgrading of the Mansa-Luwingu road.
Evelyn Mwansa feels the road will stir development once completed as people from other districts will easily transport merchandise from Chipili to Mansa, the provincial capital of Luapula.
â€œWe are happy because previously, it used to take many days for us to get to Mansa to conduct business, but with the tarring of this road, the time taken to travel will be shortened,â€ she said.
The residents, who mainly grow cassava and groundnuts, used to encounter difficulties in transporting farm produce to Mansa as most public transporters used to shun the route due to the deplorable state the road was in.
The RDA inspection team led by Ms Saili also toured the Kawambwa-Mushota-Luwingu road.
The road is expected to ease the transportation of goods from Luena farm block when it is completed.
The road is also of economic significance as it is used to transport tea and pinewood from Kawambwa to the market in Mansa and other parts of the country.
The three-phased project involves upgrading of the 105-kilometre Kawambwa-Mushota road from gravel to tarmac, and improve from earth to all-weather gravel of the 30-kilometre road from Chibote to Chief Chamaâ€™s area.
The third part of the project, which has since been completed, involved the routine maintenance of 24 kilometres of the road from the central business district of Kawambwa to the tea plantation.
The cost of the entire project, which is being undertaken by UNIK Construction Company, is K258 million and is expected to be completed in April next year.
â€œGovernment is opening up the Luena farm block, which will mainly be a sugar plantation,â€ said Mr Meleki, adding that many people have shown interest to invest in that project.
â€œSo as RDA, we thought it is wise to upgrade this road so that the sugar from the farm block, which will be earmarked for export through Dar es Salaam, could easily be transported,â€ Mr Meleki said.
Mr Epiphano Mulenga, the project surveyor of BCHOD Consultancy, said works are progressing well and are expected to be completed on schedule.
Mr Mulenga however lamented that the only challenge the contractor faced is the high water level along the Dambwa area in Pambashe.
After touring the Kawambwa-Mushota-Luwingu road, the RDA inspection entourage moved to Pedicle Road, where the tarring of 70 kilometres is underway.
The K279 million project, which runs from Mokambo border in the DRC to Chembe in Luapula Province, commenced in November 2013, and is scheduled to be completed next month, although the contractor is seeking an extension of the contract period.
So far, only 48 percent of works on the road has been completed with few weeks remaining before the deadline.
This prompted Ms Saili to ask Copperfields Mining Services, the Zambian contractor working on the road, to justify why there should be an extension to the contract period.
â€œWhat will happen is that the contractor will have to apply for what is known as extension of time, giving reasons for delays on the project. RDA will study the reasons for an extension and we will be able to give a decision and way forward on this project,â€ Ms Saili said.
She, however, said the agency acknowledges a variety of challenges faced by the contractor, ranging from administrative to technical hitches.
Contract manager Kalunda Chibalange explained that scarcity of materials has been the major challenge to effective implementation of the project.
â€œWe are behind schedule and we hope to remedy the delays on the execution of the project. We hope to achieve 70 percent of the works before the onset of the rains,â€ Mr Chibalange said.
After the Pedicle Road scrutiny, Ms Saili inspected some road construction projects in Central Province. These included the 115-kilometre Mumbwa-Landless Corner, Kabwe township roads and the Kapiri Mposhi- Kabwe road.