ETOSHA – The environment ministry has appointed contractors to regravel the road network in the Etosha National Park, which has been posing a perennial headache to tourists and other park users.
Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta on Wednesday during an assessment of the park’s road network said his office has received numerous complaints since 2018 about the deteriorating condition of the roads within the park from tourists and tourism operators. Shifeta said the ministry then took decisive action to repair and regravel the roads that stetch over 140 kilometres on the eastern part of the park.
“The road was bad. I travelled on this road myself. I can testify that you couldn’t drive 20 or 30km per hour. Tourists have on numerous occasions complained about the bad network to the point that they stopped travelling on it,” he said during a site visit.
Shifeta said this prompted the government to appoint contractors to work on the damaged roads. Etosha has a road network of over 2 000km.
Shifeta this week undertook a working visit to Etosha and Kunene region. Apart from assessing the upgrade of the Etosha roads, Shifeta also visited a new base and facilities dedicated to the ministry’s dog K9 unit, while he familiarised himself with the construction of the park’s boundary fence. He also inaugurated and handed over water infrastructure for human-wildlife conflict management and community livelihoods at Ehirovipuka conservancy as well as opened the community forest office in Otjiu West in Kunene region.
Works inspector at the ministry Mario //Naobeb explained back then that the western part of the park from M’bari to Galton Gate was not opened for tourists and was not prioritised for maintenance. He said the road condition then got worse and affected riding quality, dust and travelling time between camps and water points where endangered species such as lions, rhinos and elephants are found. This, he said, occurred between November and December 2018 when the park’s management started receiving complaints from tourists and other visitors.
“Most car rentals, tour guides and operators cancelled their bookings due to deteriorated road conditions. This resulted in loss of revenue through park entry fees and the flagship world-renowned status of Etosha National Park as a preferred destination was also at stake,” //Naobeb noted.
Therefore, he said, Tulipamwe Consulting Engineers was appointed through the department of works to undertake intense assessment and identify critical sections for regravelling. Through emergency procurement method, he said, six reputable companies were invited to submit bids for road maintenance in December 2018.
In February 2019, he said, Otesa Civil Engineering was awarded a contract to restore critical sections. The damaged gravel road was done in four phases. The first phase, which also included the drilling of two boreholes, was completed by mid-July 2019 and entailed rehabilitating an 18.7-km stretch.
//Naobeb said phase two, which covers 13.10km, was concluded at a cost of N$8.3 million, including the drilling of two boreholes at Galton Gate. The phase was completed in mid-October 2020.
He said phase three covers 15.80km and it was concluded at a cost of N$11.5 million. It was completed subject to final inspection and the approval of works.
Phase four covers 140km and is still in progress.
The road upgrade is scheduled to be completed in August 2022 and is being funded by the Road Fund Administration (RFA) at a cost of N$100 million. However, //Naobeb highlighted that challenges such as water shortage and insufficient funding were experienced during the regravelling exercise of the four phases.