Mpanda — MORE than 1bn/- has been spent to compensate 412 people evacuated from the already acquired 238.8 acres of land, to pave way for the rehabilitation and expansion of Mpanda airport in Katavi region.
Speaking here, Deputy Minister for Transport, Engineer Charles Tizeba said the government was currently establishing airport infrastructure, including runways and parking areas. According to him, the airport rehabilitation located at Kashaulili area (about five kilometres west of Mpanda town) is estimated to cost over 30bn/-.
The project is financed jointly by the government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The government has contributed 2bn/- while the UNHCR has contributed 28bn/-. Main feature includes a wide runway which has been upgraded to tarmac and extended up to 2,000 metres.
It was designed in accordance with the standards and recommendations set by the International Aviation Organisation. Eng Tizeba further said that the Mpanda airport whose rehabilitation has been completed would now be an alternative airport to other airports including Songwe (Mbeya),Tabora, Kigoma and Sumbawanga (Rukwa).
The completion of that facility would be a great economy catalyst for the residents of Katavi region as well as those from the neighbouring regions. "Katavi National Park is located in Mpanda. We are optimistic that the number of tourists will increase, because Mpanda town has already been connected to the world tourism markets, through other International airports in the country.
The Deputy Minister further hinted that despite the completion of requisite infrastructure, the airport faces number of challenges, including lack of facilities like fire extinguishers. The newly furbished Mpanda airport was officially opened last Saturday by the Vice President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal.
"Good infrastructure including airports help greatly to create economic opportunities by opening up production areas to external traders and investors hence promoting trade, tourism and generate employment opportunities," echoed the Vice-President.
Dr Bilal further observed that the Western region including Rukwa, Kigoma and Katavi have important natural, historical and cultural tourist attractions which if aggressively promoted, will definitely offer great potential to lure visitors. Geographically, Mpanda District in Katavi region is home to abundant number of wild animals such as eland, sable and roan antelopes.
According to the Ministry of Transport's Permanent Secretary, Engineer Omari Chambo, the contractor, M/s DB Shapriya and Company Ltd based in Dar es Salaam, was contracted by the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) for rehabilitation and upgrading of Mpanda airport in February 2010, while the project commenced on April 15, 2010 under the supervision of a consultant firm, Crown Tech Consult Ltd based in Dar es Salaam.