Bridges 'will save lives'

Sicelo Dladla

Sicelo Dladla

KwaZulu-Natal needs 346 more pedestrian bridges, which would cost R205million, to improve the quality of life of rural people.

According to Nonkululeko Mbatha, spokesman for the MEC for transport, community safety and liaison, there have been tragic incidents and at least 10 schoolchildren have drowned in recent years while attempting to cross swollen rivers.

Mbatha said the request for pedestrian bridges came from the communities, who were unable to conduct their day-to-day activities because of dangerous and flooded rivers.

The situation became worse during the rainy season because villages were cut off from the outside world.

"But many requests came from the department of education, which was concerned about the safety of pupils who had to cross dangerous rivers," she said.

In schools such as Mdumela High teachers and pupils have to take off their clothes every day to cross the Isikhwebezi River, while those in the Thuthukani Primary School in Sahlumbe had to cross the Thukela River on inflated tyre tubes.

"The department has asked for the construction of about 200 pedestrian bridges, and the total figure now stands at 346," she said.

Mbatha said the bridges would go a long way to improving the quality of life of rural people.

"Locals would have easy access to schools, clinics, shops and government offices," she said. "It would improve the lives of pupils since they would have access to school even during bad weather."

Mbatha said that about 24 bridges had been built across the province since the start of the pedestrian bridge project in 2004.