Mucheke Trunk Sewer: blasting threatens houses, footbridge

…incompetent consultant fails to plan for hard rock in feasibility study

Moses Ziyambi

The blasting which has been happening at a section of the Mucheke Trunk Sewer project route threatens up to a dozen houses as well as the Rujeko Footbridge at whose foot the trench passes, EnviroPress can report.

Mutual Construction (Pvt) Ltd, which is building the long-delayed sewer mainline, encountered a massive rock formation of igneous nature which sources say could best be overcome by dynamite.

Many houses, however, are prone to damage caused by the blasting force, and are exposed to shrapnel as they are roughly within the 30-meter radius of the trench which also happens to pass just below one end of  the footbridge, whose construction was completed in 2020.

City of Masvingo Town Clerk Edward Mukaratirwa said the contractor had agreed to bear the cost of any possible damage to the houses.

“The project contractor has agreed to meet the cost of compensation for houses that are at risk of any blasting and we are confident everything will be done smoothly,” said Mukaratirwa.

When asked about the apparent danger posed to the footbridge, Mukaratirwa said the structure was built in a way that allowed it to withstand such force.

“The foot bridge was designed to be able to withstand such kind of activities and we are confident that nothing bad will happen to it,” he said, even though there were signs warrantying anxiety, at least through a layman’s eyes.

One resident who lives close by said he was disappointed construction of part of the line now threatened existing properties.

“Designs for the footbridge were made a long time ago and they should have found another way for the pipes rather than dig at the very foot of a footbridge which was only built a few months ago. Our houses are also in danger and we don’t take lightly any risk to people and their property,” said the resident.

Work on the sewer line commenced in June this year after an eight-year hiatus caused by shortage of money, a problem attributable to poor planning and corruption on the part of the team that ran council between 2008 and 2013.

The contract to draw the plans of the sewer line and supervise project implementation was controversially awarded to little-known CNM-YBJ Engineering Consultants which council claims to have later fired for conducting a shoddy feasibility study, including underestimating the cost of implementing the project.

The feasibility study, council claims, failed to plan for such underground obstacles as hard rocks leading to less than adequate funding being sought, hence the eight-year-long interruption of the project.

However, CNM-YBJ director Kenneth Makwiranzou, in an interview with this reporter earlier this year, disputed this version of the story, claiming that his company had done an excellent job and had drawn perfect designs.

He said it was his company, rather, which decided to withdraw from the project because council was failing to meet its payment obligations.

Investigations have shown that council poured some US$4.8 million into the first phase of the project but there is barely anything to show for all that money.

With CNM-YBJ no longer in the picture, council is now supervising the project on its own.