Barely a month ago, the British government replaced the Bailey Bridge that collapsed over the Ituri River along the RN4. This is the principal road that connects Kisangani in the west to Uganda and Kenya in the east. This road goes through the Ituri Forest, our home for nearly twenty years and the center of the Okapi Reserve.
The World Bank funded a much needed rehabilitation of the road, but did not rebuild the bridges. Most of the many bridges have maximum weight limits of 25 tons. Nevertheless, the newly widened, smooth road was too tempting. It seemed to open up Congo’s vast forests with their wealth of wood. This was not a treasure to be ignored by Congo’s largely deforested neighbors, Uganda and Kenya.
So the bridge over the Ituri went out under the weight of a timber- filled Kenya-bound truck just weeks after that section of the road was opened. The British replaced it.
But none of the Ituri bridges were built for major tonnage; one would think that lesson had been learned. Not so. This second bridge went out under the weight of another Kenya-bound truck, again filled with rough-hewn timber. The truck was estimated at over twice, perhaps 3x the weight permissible on the bridge.
This gymnastic maneuver will soon be supplemented, first with dugout-ferries and possibly eventually with locally built frame boats — ingenuity is not lacking, even if there is an incapacity to enforce basic laws. (2 photos above by WCS — right?)
But for now the forest gets a brief reprieve from every-man, chain-saw logging.
Conrad Aveling just sent this photo update:
Soon there will be big enough dugouts to carry bicycles and motorcycles as well as people.
View Bridge Down in a larger map