Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Consultant replaced, as Lalibela residents express anger over new road project

A road construction project passing through Lalibela has been delayed after residents destroyed equipment and a camp the construction company was staying in.
The 98.7km long Gashena-Lalibela-Sekota road was supposed to make it easier for tourists to access the highly popular Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela but residents complained that the road was falling apart and a bridge in Lalibela had already washed out.
CCCC First Highway Engineering C.O. Ltd a state-owned Chinese enterprise, which also constructed Adama expressway and other roads in Ethiopia was responsible for building the road.
However, two weeks ago residents of Lalibela Town attacked the Camp, according to the City’s Deputy Mayor, Hayle Negate. Police are investigating and attempting to locate the vandals, but for now the company has left the site.
The Mayor said there were other problems with the project which led the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), to change consultants.
“The residents were also angry because the company brought its own (Chinese) employees from another construction site instead of employing local residents, which they were expecting. They also are upset because of the low quality and class of the road,” said Haile.
“We, the leaders and the localities agree on our pervious request of Asphalt Concrete (AC) and we have presented this request to ERA as well.”
The mayor also told Capital he doubts they will be able to repair the road.  A new consultant has promised the streaming company they will build the existing road.
According to procurement specification the road should be finished in 3.5 years. Since it began in 2015 this means it should have been finished by mid-2019. The road was expected to be constructed as a class DS4 meaning it would have a double surface concrete treatment and a cross section of 10m.
However, the Northern Wollo Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau Head, Getahun Kassa, did not want the road to be concrete.
“As the Rock-Hewn Churches are registered in the UNESCO World Heritage the comfort of the tourist must meet their expectation,” he told Capital. “The previous gravel road is better than what is being constructed,” he said.
The Lalaibela Rock-Hewn Churches have brought in over 81,000 foreign tourists and more than one million domestic visitors.
“Most tourists who visit Ethiopia will usually come to Lalaibela. That’s why making this destination accessible is crucial for the nation and improves the livelihoods of the people,” said Getahun.
ERA went to the place last week and replaced the consultants, according to Getahun.
Samson Wondmu, Communication Director, told Capital that the road has not been handed over to ERA yet and if there is a quality problem ERA will not approve it. He also said that the damage occurred due to heavy rains.
“We want the project to resume but we want the quality to improve. We hope the company will correct the issues raised by the community,” the city deputy mayor told Capital.