By Omar Bah
The Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, Ebrima Sillah, has blamed the delay of the OIC road projects on a shortage of sand. The construction of the 20 OIC road projects, divided into Lots 1 and 2, was supposed to last for a period of 14 months.
Concerned Gambians and opposition sources have linked the severe delay of the works to lack of funds following unconfirmed claims that the funding agencies of the project are unsatisfied with the nature and pace of work and have asked the government to work on certain amendments before they could disburse more funds.
The works, which started in November 2021, are still far behind schedule with some beneficiary communities wondering when the roads would be completed. President Adama Barrow once visited ongoing road construction sites and publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the slow progress of the 20 roads project.
But speaking in a Star FM exclusive to be aired today, the minister said the delay is due to the lack of adequate quantity of sand.
“Since May this year, there has been no sand for the contractors to continue their work. That is why most of our construction projects are delayed. Our contractors are getting sand from GACH Global, but that is very limited because they are doing the black sand mining, and whatever they mine, they have to reclaim for the environmental damages, so it is the leftovers that they supply to the contractors constructing the Faraba University, the hospital in Farato, and Arezki. That is why in Lot 1, which is the SSPP, most of their construction works have stopped, and Lot 2 in Brufut has also stopped because of the same problem,” Minister Sillah said.
He said it was only on Tuesday that Lot 2 in Brufut was supplied with 50 trips of sand.
“So, it is a very difficult process. As a government, we did some sampling of a lot of sand mining areas in the Greater Banjul Area to see whether we can use inland sand for the contractors to continue their work, but most of those are pits, and the survey showed that they are not sufficient for the quality threshold,” he said.
Minister Sillah further disclosed that Jalach Mining Services, the company mining at Denton Bridge, has secured a machine that is capable of separating salt from sand, and government is engaging them to supply sand to some of the contractors.
Commenting on the much talked about deplorable state of the Bundung road, Minister Sillah said government puts immense priority on all the roads, especially the Bundung road.
“But the problem is that there were a lot of Nawec and Gamtel pipes in that area across both sides of the road, and that has really affected the pace of the work,” he said. He said both Nawec and Gamtel have since relocated most of these pipes.
“Just last week, the contractor was there to do the levelling so that vehicles could trek the road smoothly,” he said.
Minister Sillah added that his ministry and the government in general are concerned about the difficulties faced by residents of Bundung and all areas where construction is currently underway.
“This is not in the hands of the government,” he said.