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Bridging the climate resilience gap

Plans to build a new north-south highway cannot come soon enough, given Mozambique’s exposure to the effects of climate change

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo credit: Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. It may seem over-ambitious for the government to be thinking about building a new north-south highway, when it has still not got round to mending the existing road, the N1 (see below). True, the N1 is dilapidated in several places and long overdue for rehabilitation. As a matter of fact, plans to repair the road are well advanced, with $400m of grant funding from the World Bank already agreed for the first phase of work, and a total of $850m on the table.

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But no amount of repairs to the N1 will be able to address the road’s vulnerability to extreme weather, which is only going to increase as the effects of climate change bite. As is well known, Mozambique’s long coastline makes it exceptionally exposed to typhoons from the Indian Ocean, and the N1 runs close to the coast for much of its length. Even without typhoons, bad weather can currently close sections of the highway, and the bridges where it crosses rivers like the Save are also liable to being damaged or destroyed in storms. In March of this year, for example, the N1 in Zambézia and Sofala provinces became impassable when the Namacurra and Chitenge rivers burst their banks, flooding two sections of road totalling over 2km.

It is therefore right for ministers to look to an alternative route that would provide much-needed redundancy. The new road is planned to bypass Inhambane province, where the N1 is particularly near to the coast. The necessary studies for design and environmental impact will take several years to complete, so a lack of funds to build a road at present is no reason to delay. In any case, such a mammoth project (the existing N1 measures almost 2,500km) could only be completed in phases.

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