By Lamin Njie
Assistant Information Officer Ministry of Transport, Works & Infrastructure
The Upper River Region (URR) bridges and road projects, of US$ 82 million, currently under construction and funded by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), will be completed earlier than scheduled, by the 15th July, 2021 and not in August 2021, as originally projected.
Mike Feng, Head of the Chinese consultant team in The Gambia, revealed this information during the sixth meeting of the Project Steering Committee held in Basse on Friday, 26th March, 2021 at the offices of the Chinese Contractors.
According to Mr. Feng, major works of the road and bridges have been completed and the total progress is at 91.5%. According to him, the remaining works include the asphalt pavement for the road, the marking of lines on the road, guardrails for the bridges, China Aid logo on the structures, and slope stabilization works on the bridge approaches.
“So far, the cement stabilized base of the road has been constructed to 100%, leaving only to put in place the last layer of asphalt concrete surface,” he said. Mr. Feng further mentioned that the lights for the bridges are under procurement, and the materials will be transported in time for installation.
Hon. Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister for Transport, Works and Infrastructure, commended the consultants and contractors for the good news, citing that despite the COVID pandemic, which slowed the pace of works, the project will still be completed ahead of schedule.
The Minister thanked members of the Project Steering Committee for meeting regularly throughout the period, and being proactive to support the project. The Minister opined that: “according to various studies on successful projects, a critical factor which has been identified for such success is the number of meetings to deal with the challenges faced during implementation. The Committee had six meetings altogether, and during these meetings, the Committee was able to solve many problems which unfolded,” he said.
Furthermore, the Minister commended the PRC for their support, noting that since the resumption of diplomatic relation with The Gambia, about five years ago, a lot has happened, citing the construction of the OIC conference center, the URR bridges and road project, scholarship packages for Gambian students to study in China, and covid-19 medical supplies to The Gambia, to name a few.
He thanked everyone who participated in the project, and expressed his Ministry’s appreciation of the role of the Chinese Ambassador, His Excellency Ma Jinchuan, the Chinese contractors and consultants, the Governor of Upper River Region, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government, NAWEC, GAMTEL, and all the other stakeholders for a job well done.
Minister Jobe described the project as an important achievement in the annals of the Upper River Region, and the country at large. “This project will serve as model for other projects in this country,” he said
Finally, he reminded the contractor of the absence of speed bumps on the newly constructed road, and the height of the road in some areas, such as the village of Kusong in Kantora, which is making it difficult for the villagers to access the other side of their village. The contractor and the consultant promised to fix the problem as soon as possible.
For his part, Ambassador Ma Jianchun assured that his country is ready to strengthen cooperation with The Gambia, in the field of infrastructure, the fight against Covid-19, and agriculture, among other challenging issues.
“China always adheres to the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith when carrying out cooperation with The Gambia and all other African countries; and attaches great importance to their autonomous development and sustainability,” he said.
Ambassador Jianchun described the project as another example of China-Gambia cooperation, which will be a driving force for economic recovery for The Gambia and in the sub-region as a whole.
The meeting was attended by Mod k. Ceesay, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, Momodou Senghore, Managing Director, National Roads Authority, Samba Bah, Governor, Upper River Region and other relevant stakeholders.
After the meeting, on the same day in the evening, Hon. Bai Lamin Jobe led the Committee members to Mankamang Kunda to meet His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, who reportedly was on vacation.
Both the Minister and the Ambassador briefed the President on the progress of the works and revealed the completion of the project to be on 15th July instead of 15th August, 2021.
His Excellency, President Barrow thanked the Ambassador and the team of consultants and contractors of the project. The President described the project as a very important development in URR and the surrounding areas.
He noted that the project, when completed, is expected to boost trade in Basse and the sub-region as a whole.
The President further commended The Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure and The National Roads Authority and the people of Upper River Region for their steadfastness during the implementation of the project.