Takunda Maodza Manicaland Bureau
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has released US$24 million for the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge in March last year.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is the project manager for work being done.
The funding by AfDB complements Government efforts and is centred on building new bridges, remaking roads and repairing and upgrading irrigation infrastructure.
The scheme involves permanent improvement rather than temporary repairs and there has been a lot of planning resulting in the actual civil engineering works starting now.
Chimanimani and Chipinge districts are rich in timber, tea, coffee and fruits, including pineapples, avocados and macadamia nuts.
Part of the funds will support the revival of irrigation schemes in the two districts.
On Wednesday, AfDB executive directors, among them Dr Judith Kateera and Mr Mbuyamu Matungulu, toured various areas in Chimanimani where the bank is funding four major bridges.
The tour was for board members to appreciate the scope of works.
They toured Nyahodi Bridge Number 3 to 5 and Kopa where the South African National Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe National Army constructed two Bailey bridges last year.
At Kopa, AfDB intends to construct two major bridges — one across Nyahode River and the other across Rusitu River linking Chimanimani East to Chipinge.
It is UNOPS’s view that the two Bailey Bridges are temporary.
The project has four phases, with construction of the bridges expected to start next year.
In an interview during the tour, UNOPS country manager Mr Djibrilla Mazin said funding was approved in September last year and funds were released in December of the same year.
Some quarters feel UNOPS is moving slowly in implementing the project.
Mr Mazin said there were a lot of pre-construction activities taking place.
He said UNOPS has to mobilise, recruit consulting firms, come up with detailed designs of the bridges, and recruit contractors.
“UNOPS is an agency that is mandated by the UN General Assembly for infrastructure, project management and procurement. We have been called here to support Government as well as the African Development Bank in response to the Cyclone Idai and the project is more than US$24 million that was dedicated and granted to Zimbabwe by the AfDB,” said Mr Mazin.
He said the project sought to improve agricultural productivity by ensuring construction of resilient infrastructure for easy movement of produce and inputs.
Mr Mazin explained why physical works have not started.
“We started with our inception phase. You must understand that this is not a humanitarian project. This is an infrastructural project and it has a lead time that is different from a humanitarian project. It’s not patching and rebuilding quickly. It is taking stock of the events ensuring that we understand the impact and the reasons why it happened and we build back better, meaning that we redesign with resilient criteria that will allow the infrastructure to last,” he said.
“We mobilised UNOPS in September last year. I think we have been pretty fast in analysing the needs, in detailing the different actions that we can propose to Government for them to come up with final list of priorities.”
Mr Mazin said needs surpassed available resources.
“You know the impact of Cyclone Idai is US$700 million to US$1,3 billion and we only have US$24 million. Obviously, we will need to prioritise and see how we can support the Government.
“These funds were dedicated to Chimanimani and Chipinge districts and purely to infrastructure which will enhance agricultural productivity and livelihoods of the population,” said Mr Mazin.
At the moment priority is on Chimanimani district.
“Mainly it is the bridges, but what is important to note again is we are not building what was there before. We are rebuilding with resilient criteria. We are rebuilding stronger and in some cases it requires realignment of roads and so that takes time.
“I know people are very anxious that after one year where is the physical construction, we cannot see it today?” he said.
Mr Mazin said UNOPS will not be rushed into action.
“I think it is also important to recognise that you do not want to rush and build something that will be destroyed by the next rains. The funds were released to UNOPS in December last year. We are looking at four main bridges,” he said.
UNOPS will also attend to irrigation schemes, water and sanitation improvements in Chipinge and Chimanimani.