By Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA)
A total of 250 kilometres of gravel road in the Etosha National Park will be tarred with a low-volume seal following an agreement to upgrade roads in the park by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and Road Fund Administration (RFA).
Speaking at the signing ceremony on Wednesday, RFA Chief Executive Officer, Ali Ipinge, said since 2020, the RFA has been mandated by a special cabinet resolution to financially support the ministry in regravelling roads in hotspot tourist areas covering 270 kilometres valued at over N.dollars 200 million, with RFA contributing 79 percent.
Ipinge explained that the solution for RFA to support the upgrading of the road section from Okakuekujo, Halali, Namutoni and King Nehale gate to low-volume seal roads was further re-confirmed in 2022.
He stressed that continuing to regravel roads that are highly trafficked, such as those in Etosha with a traffic count of an excess of 44,000 vehicles per annum, will not help in the long term; therefore, a joint decision was made to upgrade to a low-volume seal road.
"The low-volume seal road will last longer; the investment will at least last us up to 15 years, which is a much lower expenditure in terms of maintenance compared to the gravel road that we have to regravel every three to four years," he noted.
Ipinge further noted that the agreement equally seeks to put in place a levy to support the ongoing maintenance of the roads, such as gate fees for entering the park, among others, noting that the current investment is provided by the fuel levy.
At the same event, the environment ministry's executive director, Theofulus Nghitila, said the ministry currently does not have the capacity to maintain roads like in the past; therefore, RFA has become a strategic partner in assisting road maintenance in Etosha, which is the most visited tourist flagship of Namibia.
"When we tried as a ministry to do it alone in 2019 we could not, and the road condition continued to deteriorate.
“Our capacity has declined, the equipment has gotten old, and operators, most of them have retired; therefore, we were left to look at alternatives to keep the roads in good shape," he said.
The construction is expected to commence in 2024.