FOR a long time now, the Western part of Zambia has continued to lag behind in terms of development. Part of the reason for this drawback is the poor infrastructure in the area especially roads.
However, from now on, the status quo will not be the same for the people of this province, following the drastic measures that the Government continues to institute in so far as developing especially road infrastructure is concerned.
The State has resumed the construction of major roads such as the long-awaited Sesheke-Senanga as well as the Mongu-Senanga one.
The commencement of the construction of the Mongu-Senanga Road follows the recent awarding of three contracts to cover a stretch of 223 kilometres of the Sesheke-Senanga Road in Western Province at a cost of K706 billion by the Road Development Agency (RDA).
RDA public relations manager Loyce Saili says the agency has awarded China New Era International Engineering (CNEIE) the first contract to upgrade 85 kilometres from Senanga to Maziba on the Sesheke-Senanga Road at a cost of K274 billion.
The second lot is the 70 kilometres stretch from Sesheke at Katimamulilo border post to Senanga which has been awarded to China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation (CJCIETC) at a cost of K223 billion.
The remaining stretch of 66 kilometres has been awarded to China Geo Engineering Co-operation (CGEC) at a cost of K209 billion.
Ms Saili during a recent tour of the road noted that about K706 billion would be spent on the construction of the Sesheke-Senanga Road.
The funds are part of the US$300 million, which the Government sourced from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
Western Province Permanent Secretary Seth Muleya says that once completed, the Sesheke-Senanga road would open up the province and link Zambia to neighboring countries in the Southern African region such as Namibia, Botswana and Angola.
Mr Muleya reiterates Government's commitment to upgrading road infrastructure as it had the capacity to ensure socio-economic development for the country.
Speaking during the tour of part of the 223 kilometres road, Mr Muleya said that the construction of the Sesheke-Senanga road would go a long way in ensuring development in Western Province.
The Government is excited with the construction of the road as it would enhance agriculture and tourism in Western Province.
"As Government we are very happy about this road because it will open up Western Province and indeed the whole Zambia to development," Mr Muleya said.
Sesheke District Commissioner (DC) Mwiya Wanyambe notes that the people of Sesheke are overwhelmed with the construction of the road.
"Sesheke has been under-developed for a long time now and we are hoping that the construction of this road will bring hope to the people of Western Province.
As the people of Sesheke, we are very lucky because the road will boost trade and tourism.
This is exactly what we need," Mr Mwiya said.
He said the people of Sesheke District would remain grateful to the Zambian Government for its efforts in uplifting their standards of living through infrastructure development.
His Senanga counterpart, Kwalombota Muwanei is also happy that the construction of the 223km Sesheke-Senanga road would go a long way in opening up the province to trade.
Mr Muwanei notes that the road would open up Shangombo and Senanga, the districts which have been isolated for too long.
"This road will bring about development to Senanga District as merchandise will have access to the market," Mr Muwanei said.
He says the road would even be beneficial to the people of Shangombo who have for a long time now been using the Senanga-Kalongolo Road which is unreliable especially in the rainy season.
The multi-billion road construction works on the Sesheke-Senanga Road works have since reached an advanced stage.
The project, which is expected to gobble K706 billion started in July last year and is scheduled for completion in July 2012.
The works include upgrading in readiness for tarring.
Ms Saili says that about 40 kilometres of the road has been done from Sesheke and that so far the project is progressing well.
A check on the site found contractors working on the road with a lot of progress having been made.
In some parts, especially near Maziba Bay, the road is almost ready for final resurfacing and tarring.
Ms Saili reiterates RDA's commitment to working with the Zambian Government in ensuring that the road development in the country progresses very well for the benefit of the citizens.
"For the Sesheke-Senanga Road, we are working at realigning it and upgrading it so that it is finally tarred," Ms Saili said.
She commends the contractor for the progress that is being made on the road and urges the local people to support the project.
Consultants E.G. Petit said they were pleased with the road works and were slightly ahead of schedule.
Resident Engineer Chamunda Sichilonga said the consultants were confident of completing the road works by July 2012.
"The road will be stable and effectively contribute to the development of Western Province," Mr Sichilonga said.
It should be stressed that the Government has not only paid attention to road infrastructure but other social sectors of the economy.
The Government has embarked on a K1.8 billion water reticulation programme in Shang'ombo district in Western Province as District Commissioner Kabayo Masheke explains.
Mr Masheke notes that the coming up of a good water reticulation system in Shangombo would improve the health of the people of the area.
The water reticulation programme is being undertaken by Logic and Chriscall Company and that the project is scheduled for completion in three months time.
"We are hopeful that the works on the water reticulation system will be completed by the end of July.
This will go a long way in ensuring the development of Shangombo District and the surrounding areas," he said.
He said that piped water had now been made available to the people of Shangombo.
In the same breath, the Government has also embarked on the rehabilitation of township roads in Shangombo at a cost of K350million.
Mr Masheke said that the roads, which were being done under the Rural Roads Unit (RRU), would better the lives of the people of Shangombo.
Apart from the water reticulation project being implemented in Shangombo District, the Government is also putting up modern border facilities at the Katimamulilo border post in Sesheke.
Another milestone is the construction and rehabilitation of some schools in Sesheke district which have reached an advanced stage.
Two schools have since been completed in Kasumpa in Mulobezi area and the Government is currently working on the Kalundu School in Mwandi and Sisibi schools in Mulobezi where works have advanced.
In the health sector in Sesheke District, Government is at the moment working on three health posts.
In terms of agriculture in Sesheke District, Government is also working on Kanyimba Dam which would be used for agricultural purposes.
The Government is also hoping to use the Kanyimba Dam for irrigation and effectively contribute to the development of agriculture in Western Province and Zambia as a nation.
Other than the normal challenges that the Western Province is experiencing, huge milestones have been made in infrastructure development in that province by the Government.
A Sesheke resident Mukumbuta Siloka says that the people in the area are happy with the Government for its commitment to upgrading major roads in the province, which have been in a poor state for many years.
He cites the Sesheke-Senanga road construction as a taste example.
In the absence of this road, people have been made to drive for close 11 hours to connect from Sesheke to Senanga, a journey which is only supposed to take two-hours on a good road.
"We have been relying on water transport and it is very unreliable because sometimes the pontoon does not work," Mr Siloka observes.
With the construction and completion of the Sesheke-Senanga Road by July 2012, it is, therefore, hoped that trade and tourism will be boosted and development will be multiplied for the people of Sesheke, Western Province and Zambia as a whole.