YUMBE. Government has secured about Shs 8.2billion to construct a major bridge on river Kochi that connects Yumbe district to South Sudan.

The construction works of the bridge has been contracted to Dynaco Engineering for a duration of 3years. This is however going to be a design and construction project.

Speaking during the handover of the site to the contractor over the weekend, Mr Rashid Kawawa, the Local Council III Chairman of Lori sub-county said it has been a long awaited project the community has been yarning for because they have been facing a lot of challenges in crossing the river due to poor state of the bridge.

"This bridge has been a bottle neck for us in terms of the socioeconomic growth of the region because it's a busy road that connects to South Sudan, big markets, schools and health facilities but accessibility of such places has been a problem. We appreciate the government for listening to our prayer because the pressure the community has been putting on the sub county and district leaders was too much", he said.

"Our youths have been engaging in sand mining in this river to earn a living so as to make ends meet but as this project is going to take shape, the youth in this area should be considered if there are provisions of employing local workers in this project", he added.

Mr Lawrence Pariyo, the Engineer in charge of bridges and structures at Uganda National Roads Authority(UNRA) said, the works of the bridge will start with surveying of the area including the design which will take around 8months and the actual construction of the permanent bridge will take 2 and a half years.

He said, in the project specification, a 1km road shall be opened on either sides of the bridge(2km) where 500 metres on the either sides of the bridge (1km) shall be tarmacked and the measurements of the bridge will be 10metres wide, 30metres long and it will be raised a bit higher.

"The bridge will have a lifespan of 100years so this will be a permanent bridge. This will enhance safety and efficient movement of goods but cautioned the contractor to ensure that they deliver a good product", Mr Pariyo said.

“We expect the contractor to hire the land from the community and also compensate the landlord for the land taken for the bridge and the road. The contractor should work together with the community and the district leaders", he added.

He said, in the meantime, the contractor will do the maintenance of the existing bridge so that it's usable until they get a new one.

Mr Godfrey Onzima, the Member of Parliament for Aringa North constituency said, Kochi bridge is a huge bridge because it connects Yumbe to South Sudan.

"Most of the refugees who have settled in Bidibidi refugee settlement were ferried through this bridge and it's one of the oldest bridges in West Nile which remained on timber for a long period of time. Since the bridge is on the road maintained by UNRA, in the long run, we have an ambition that one day, the road should be tarmacked because it leads to the border of South Sudan", he said.

He added; "The benefit of this bridge once completed should be interns of production. Our people should engage in production so that the bridge can be used as a means of accessing the markets which will help them to improve their livelihood".

Mr Abdulmutwalib Asiku the Yumbe district chairperson said prioritising the construction of Kochi bridge this financial year is a very big milestone for the people of Yumbe district because there are over 500 bridges to be constructed in the country.

"We have for several times registered shoddy works in such projects but my appeal to the contractor is that the specifications in the bill of quantity, designs and what has been agreed must be respected including the project duration", he said.

He urged the local community around the project area to cooperate and give the necessary support in terms of security, mobilisation of the local materials and any other support the contractor may need from them.

What the locals say

Mr Mahazin Dragule, a resident of the area said: "Many people have lost lives, goods in this river and some vehicles plunged into this river because of the poor state of the bridge. We thank the government for this intervention which will save us".

Mr Brahan Azubu, another resident said; "We are happy that the bridge has finally been handed over for construction. River Kochi is a very powerful river and when it floods, it covers the bridge, so the contractor needs to do serious work on this bridge without any shoddy work".