notably in the coastal areas, the West and the northern regions.
The back-to-school movement has come to further exacerbate the numerous difficulties usually encountered by the arrival of rains. Residents of rural Cameroon are paying a particularly difficult price as vehicles can hardly ever get to areas of huge human concentrations where, unfortunately, many of the boarding institutions are located, chosen for their calmness and the good atmosphere for study and concentration.
The reopening of schools has brought the problem to the limelight, but even without this pretext, there is every reason to worry about the condition of many roads in the country, especially with the negative impact the situation has on the performance of the economy because of the difficulty of moving goods out of production zones either to consumption areas or to export ports. Most importantly, these vehicles circulate in other countries without the same damages occurring on the roads.
Ordinary road users have often blamed the situation on the lack of adequate funds to finance road projects in a manner as to satisfy the high demand in the rural areas. But a few days ago, an official explained the difficult situation on a premise difficult to accept for a country in dire need of roads and other transportation facilities. Engineers in the Ministry of Public Works blame the degradation of the nation’s highways less on the construction inadequacies than on the way the roads are used.
For instance, they argue that the type of highway transportation equipment has to be reviewed to ensure that our roads are preserved in good stead. They argue that most of the vehicles plying our highways are overweight and, therefore, cause the degradation of roads. This means the whole stock of transport vehicles has to be removed from our roads or, at least, readapted! As a solution to the debilitating state of roads in the country, this is simply crazy! Cameroon is not a producer of heavy industrial equipment and does not produce, not even to talk of mounting any reasonable proportion of the rolling stock on our roads. What steadily comes to mind for any well-thinking citizen is the need to build roads which can resist the kind of road equipment we import.
Government policy has been to ensure that any inter-urban road built is expected to last for at least 20 years and the practice is that any winner of a road construction project works under the control of a technical control body that ensures compliance with the conditions of durability. It is not for nothing that before work is undertaken, a detailed geotechnical study of the route is carried out by an authorized consultancy firm. Then at the construction phase, another firm ensures technical conformity which can range from such details as the mixture formula of cement, sand and other materials to the thickness of the macadam or the width of the road.
This is generally the rule to having a good road. But there are many exceptions to this rule which can either be attributed to incompetence or complicity. Incompetence comes by the way of hiring less qualified technical staff for positions that were advertised at the time of bidding. And complicity has many facets. The non-respect of the width of a road by just 20 centimetres for a 100-kilometer road can fetch whopping sums of money and if the situation is not decried by the technical control team, can fuel bribery and other costs that undermine quality. There can also be the non-respect of several other technical norms, leading to huge windfalls for corrupt actors of the road construction process.
Granted, road use habits may also impact on the quality of roads; but the quality of roads and their durability all depend on the respect of the prescribed norms at the moment the road was constructed. Yes, we must use our roads respectfully and carefully; but those involved in road construction must also show patriotism by building roads that can last! — Source : Cameroon Tribune