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Maun - Ghanzi Road Closure

Posted by maunselfdrive4x4 on September 4, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Approximately 7 kms South of Maun, near Sitatunga Campsite, the road has been washed out.

Mac and Brenda went out there Sunday. Unfortunately they were not allowed to get close, so no photos. The police had the area cordoned off and were only allowing trucks through that were involved in road repairs. The bridge may be open within about one week. There were a lot of frustrated tourists there, as well as members of the road and transport department with maps, showing them the diversion. This diversion route is via Makalamabede village and Kuke past Hainaveld Game Ranch. The track that borders the CKGR to the North.

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2 Comments

Reply maunselfdrive4x4
3:11 AM on September 6, 2011 
The Sitatunga bridge was opened late this afternoon. But there is no certainty on how long this will last.
Reply maunselfdrive4x4
5:06 PM on September 12, 2011 
Update in the Ngami Times 9 - 16 September 2011 -
Patient queues of people snake along the banks of the Xutego River at Sitatunga because of the flash flooding that cut Maun off from the rest of Ngamiland. ( Pictures by Bright Kholi)

Persistent expressed fears that, in the wake of flooding rivers, most of the district's roads and bridges are disasters waiting to happen have been finally been confirmed.

The Ngami Times warned on August 12 that road engineers feared a major danger because of water pressure on bridges as a result of the flood.

This reality struck home when the road at the Sitatunga culvert bridge was washed away last Friday night, leaving Maun cut-off from the western part of the district.

The Department of Roads had earlier closed the bridge and diverted traffic through a 5km alternative route over a bridge on the old gravel road in order to fix the bridge after a sinkhole appeared on the road over the culvert two weeks ago.

On Friday, the closed bridge gave in due to the water pressure that had been building up over time and which culminated in a flash flood that instantly swept through the whole area, including an old culvert bridge downstream of the alternative gravel road.

The water also flooded the Okavango Swamps Crocodile Farm again, sweeping away more crocodiles into the river - and this time around, bigger ones.

A few weeks ago flooding flushed crocodiles into the river system, and the farm owners then claimed it was ?the docile, small crocodiles? that were affected.

That was not by far the end of the disaster.

The water entering Thamalakane River from the Xutego River caused a backflow and the water level rose by more than 30cm at the Maun Bridge on Saturday.

The disaster literally cut-off Maun's road links to Komana, Toteng, Sehithwa, Ghanzi and the Okavango.

People travelling into Maun from those areas spent the night at the river bank and only managed to cross through a flotilla of boats the following day.

Long queues of people on either bank bore testimony to the disaster. Residents and tourists were equally affected as car, trucks and safari vehicles were unable to continue their journeys.

On Saturday morning, it was a race against time as the authorities, led by the district commissioners' office, were trying to facilitate the movement of people across the river. The Minister of Transport and Communications, Frank Ramsden, who did not appear to be on duty, was also at the scene.

Boats were then sourced from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), North West District Council, 911 Neighbourhood Watch, and privately owned boats to ferry passengers across. This week, as the department opened up the bridge after piling up calcrete across the river, the director of Roads, Kabo Kote, was at pains explaining why the situation was allowed to get to a disaster level despite warnings and alerts on the possible flooding. At an impromptu press conference at the Sitatunga culvert, Kote told journalists that shortage of funds has inadvertently led to the current crisis.

?The design plans for the Sehitwa-Maun road, including proper bridges to replace these culverts, were done about three years ago and were shelved due to lack of funds,? Kote said.

Kote said since this was now an emergency, they had to mobilise funds from other projects to fix the culvert bridge but added that mobilising resources is not easy.

In explaining why the culverts were built so low, Kote said the road was done internally by his department in 1991 under the Rural Roads division as a road that connected communities. ?It was assumed then that the water levels would never reach this high,? he said. Kote said the road has gone past its lifespan and while he admits that they have been caught up by the floods, he denies ignoring advice and warning from experts on possible floods that would put the facilities in flood plains in danger.

?We acted, like I said, the designs for rebuilding this road were completed a long time ago, and funds do not allow us to go ahead with the project,? he said.

Kote noted that the project will cost about P500-million. He also admitted that some other similar facilities in the area may also be facing a similar threat. Other culverts that are currently under threat include Toteng Bridge, Tsau culvert, and the Ikoga culvert.He further acknowledged that the road, which is now a trade route, had cost businesses and the country a lot of money during the three days that it was closed. Asked what his department is currently doing to rectify the problem, Kote said they are now working on putting in other culverts where the road was cut off, which has so far been buffered by calcrete layers on both sides. He said once the water in the buffer area has been pumped out, it will be replaced with a ?certain type of soil? at the bottom to prevent water seepage before bigger culverts can be constructed.
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