Engineers frown at poor roads

Engineers frown at poor roads

Deteriorating road conditions in the country that have turned into death traps have appalled the Malawi Engineering Institution (MEI) which has demanded action from duty-bearers to ensure roads are safe to users.

In a statement signed by MEI president and board chairperson Engineer Alfonso Chikuni, who is also Ministry of Energy Principal Secretary, the engineers have asked the Roads Authority (RA) to implement an emergency road maintenance programme to ensure safety of all road users and to undertake corrective action on the Golomoti-Monkey Bay section of the M10 that gets submerged in flood waters.

To the Malawi Government, MEI has called for mobilisation of resources for timely maintenance of both urban and rural roads “which are currently in deplorable state”.

Further, the engineers’ body has called on government to address challenges hindering execution of the M1 rehabilitation from Kamuzu International Airport junction in Lilongwe to Rumphi.

MEI also said it noted “dangerous potholes” on some roads that are not being attended to and that some projects have been delayed, notably in Lilongwe City.

Reads the MEI statement: “Deep potholes are rampant and are not being attended to with the urgency they deserve. These potholes are not only damaging the vehicles plying on these roads but are also death traps to road users.”

Potholes are a common sight on the country’s roads

But in an interview yesterday, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara said following the recent approval of project cost reviews by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), Malawians will see progress on the roads.

He said: “All outstanding issues on M1 have been resolved. The public should also expect great progress this year on this project.

“Further to that, we finally have a new executive management at Roads Authority. This will greatly enhance the efficiency of the Roads Authority.”

MEI said it observed several dangerous spots on roads that include the M1 from Nsanje to Karonga via Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu; the M3 from Blantyre to Chingeni in Ntcheu via Zomba and Balaka; the M5 also known as Lakeshore Road from Salima Turn-off to Nkhata Bay via Salima and Nkhotakota and the M10 from Golomoti to Monkey Bay Turn-off and Mangochi. The engineers said the conditions of the roads have made the driving experience a nightmare.

On the ongoing Lilongwe City Roads Improvement Project, MEI has expressed concern with the “slow pace” of construction, saying it is likely most of the projects will miss the revised timelines and continue to inconvenience road users.

The statement said the MEI team inspected the roads in the capital city to appreciate progress in view of the revised deadlines that are in the range of between May and December 2024, but found that the works still need more time.

“There is a high likelihood of missing the revised deadlines. The recently approved K315 billion devaluation-induced price adjustments give us some hope that these projects will be fast tracked,” states MEI.

Efforts to get a reaction from RA yesterday proved futile as the authority asked for more time to consult, but later declined to comment on the matter.

Delayed execution of Kenyatta Road and Mzimba Street upgrading project in Lilongwe City has since pushed the cost from a combined K28 billion to K62 billion.

The new costs came to light in January this year during a monitoring tour of the projects organised by the National Construction Industry Council and professional boards aimed at establishing the cause of delays in the completion of the road projects.

Initially, the Kenyatta Road, which runs from Parliament Roundabout in City Centre to Shoprite complex, was earmarked to cost K19 billion for the upgrading to six lanes with an overpass at the intersection with Mzimba Street.

On the other hand, Mzimba Street, which runs from Crossroads Roundabout to Lilongwe Bridge in Mchesi Township, was estimated to cost K9 billion.

Meanwhile, there are 28 road projects worth about K439.8 billion and fears abound that taxpayers will pay more due to cost overruns as a result of delays in the executing the projects.

Malawi has a road network spanning 15 500 km of which 4 500 km is tarmac.

Established under an Act of Parliament, MEI has the legal mandate to investigate and monitor national emergencies of disasters or any other matter of public concern caused by or likely to be caused by an engineering product or service and recommend appropriate preventive or other measures.

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