May 21, 2013 in News
‘The lack of infrastucture’ is a familiar refrain for many of those unwilling to invest and engage in the HABA region. To those who take the trouble to visit, this story is beginning to change, but the picture remains a complex one. Years of regional conflict and neglect have ensured that the Horn of Africa and adjacent regions has some of the poorest roads in Africa. Now there is a realisation in national governments that if potential is to be unlocked the infrastructure challenge has to be met head on and this means serious investment. To many China has arrived with a seemingly tailor made solution, not only offering the technical knowhow, but also the finance to initiate such capital projects, a powerful combination that few governments find able to resist. Whilst in theory the building of new roads or the patching up existing ones is good for local connectivity and thus development, there are a multiplicity of factors that need to be examined and scrutinised with care if problems are not going to be stored up for the future. Already there are signs of recent projects demonstrating poor design and friability within months of being constructed.
To date no government has had the courage or foresight to establish an online cadastral survey, one that makes clear who owns what land and has the added potential to also feature valuable data concerning mineral and hydrocarbon assets and licences. Central governments the world over have a habit of commissioning road building projects with scant consultation with local communities and then are surprised and indignant when plans rather than being welcomed are greeted with hostility. Already urban centres across the HABA region are fast losing what little green space that exists and peri-urban areas are being blighted by constant encroachment and despoilation. Compensation schemes and judicial protection are inadequate, with the legal process all too often weighted in favour of the goverment. Anyone familiar with the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project will be aware of how little effort is made to carry out genuine environmental impact surveys. National interest, such as it is invariably trumps local concerns every time. There are of course other matters to be considered, such as the effect of the extremes of temperature and the managing of water runoff. Sadly, a number of the new roads being constructed have inadequate substructures to deal with rain water and those being built in urban areas rarely are built with sewage management systems in mind. HABA has anecdotal evidence that poor quality gravel and inferior bitumen is often being used and this further increases the likelihood of increased wear and tear. Traffic usage on new roads is extremely heavy and set to grow enormously and yet on-going maintenance is rarely factored into the costs, nor are proper safety proceedures with a view to minimising the number of accidents and fatalities on the roads. For a region so well suited to solar lighting, it is regrettable that solar solutions rarely if ever feature. The region desperately needs improved connectivity, especially to regional centres, but it also requires a greater degree of joined up planning and thinking that has long term solutions in mind.
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