RE: WorldTransport Forum Wafrika waamke - African Transport Survival Forum
- Dear ColleaguesThis is an interesting concept and project. I will like to be informed of the progress of the projectProfessor Chris NwagbosoDirectorMidlands Institute of Transport
From: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Eric Britton
Sent: Tue 14/11/2006 15:41
To: gatnet@...; Sustran-discuss@...; WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
Subject: WorldTransport Forum Wafrika waamke - African Transport Survival Forum
Now, dear friends, here is a challenge truly worthy of your genius, imagination and compassion – swapping ideas and views about the usefulness of somehow creating or supporting an African Transport Survival “Forum”.
Martin Strid sets it out for us in the attached note, which places this ‘nth banal transport advisory proposal’ in a most troubling context, which is in fact what the real world is giving us all to work with. It is my view that if we are not able to keep all these matters in mind, we and those concerned would really be quite unprepared to understand and make wise decisions concerning the specific issues to which this forum might in time be addressed.
Before we move ahead I would like to draw your attention to a sadly all too typical ‘old mobility’ initiative in another part fo the world via the following (below) recent article from the New York Times on “Delays mire U.S. road project in Aceh”. I know that there are plenty of Afircan examples of misplaced zeal along these lines but this happens to be one that is immediately at hand. The message is both clear, and universal.
So what happens now? Well for starters, let me propose (a) not too fast and (b) together. Also we will from the beginning need to find as many black Africans to get involved here, since otherwise it’s just one more exercise of good hearted but hey! neo-colonial do-gooding. This is not to say that the lessons that are to be learned from such a group exercise will be limited to Africa alone, most will surely be universal. But we can’t have this as one more Mzungu* grandstand. Can we?
And we can’t have this as a male-centric and driven project either. Can we? The heart of Africa beats in the breast of its women.
Your thoughts on this?
PS. Here is what Jeraldi from the Kamuis project (http://research. yale.edu/ swahili/learn/ ?q=en/node/ 244) has to say about this word. "Mzungu" shares its stem with the verb "kuzungua" or "kuzunguka". Both of which basically mean to go around, wander around, run around here and there, etc. The "m" on the front changes it into "one who...." so "mzungu" basically means "one who wanders around" or "one who runs around here and there in a restless manner". To understand why this word is used to describe white people in general, one needs to visit East Africa and observe the differences between the visiting white people and the locals. In general, the locals take their time in their daily activities. They might visit a friend for a couple hours, sit through a 4 hour church service, visit with 5 people on their way home without being in a rush, etc. In contrast, the white people generally seem to be in a rush to get somewhere and do things and tend to have a more business-like or hurried manner. These are of course gross generalizations that don't apply to everyone but they are pretty accurate. It pretty much boils down to the difference between what's called island time, Africa time, etc. which is a more slow-paced lifestyle, and I guess American time, European time, etc. which is a more fast-paced lifestyle.
From: martin.strid@ vv.se [mailto:martin. strid@vv. se]
Sent: Thursday, November 09, 2006 5:05 PM
To: eric.britton@ ecoplan.org
Subject: Wafrika waamke
Legis vian resumon pri la diversaj diskutejoj mi hodiau.
Proponon mi havas kaj vershajne vi havas opinion respondan pri ghi.
Temas pri la forgesita kontinento, nia komuna praorigino kaj malricha najbaro de Europo:
In view of the coming, perhaps imminent (according to Mr Samsam Bakhtiari, http://www.peakoil. net) oil shortage crisis, there are a number of issues for Africans to deal with:
- How to get rid of colonial heritage: inefficient bureaucracies, crazy borders (that generate civil wars), foreign education systems and the ever-present inferiority complex towards Mzungu power.
- How to get rid of criminal regimes and armies financed by more or less illegal trade with natural resources, especially mineral resources.
- How to gain democratic control over those resources, in spite of the growing greed of exocontinentals.
- How to avoid the worst scenarios of starvation due to climate change and resource depletion.
- How to develop and implement, on a massive scale, sustainable cooking (and other energy technology) based on direct sun heat.
- How to develop a sustainable transportation system in the very few years between now and oil depletion. The issue includes agricultural production, food distribution, public transport, cycling and road maintenance.
- How to organise sustainable democratic societies based on a balanced human ecology, local cultures and the general use of African languages (imperative for self confidence and real progress).
Kwa sababu mpaka sasa, wazungu wamegaia na wamenyeta na wafrika wamelipa na wamelia.
Kompreneble ne povus unu sendolisto tiujn problemojn solvi.
Sed almenau la transportan parton oni povus komencigi.
And please watch out so that it does not become a mainly South African affair.
South African society is half European and certainly not representative of East, Central or West Africa.
(Even if they are among the all too few African countries where an African language is allowed to be used officially).
So, how about making an AL'VOKO for an African transport survival forum?
I would like to invite comments on this piece that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, which to my mind in hugely rich with lessons that we all will do very poorly indeed to ignore. The piece suggests some of the contradictions, but really should have scratched further, because none of these are accidents. They are part of a greater whole that we will do well to understand, not only in rural countryside’s in the Global South, but also in the streets and roads of the so-called ‘developed nations’.
Here are the first couple of thoughts that come to mind that I hope will serve to stir you to more and better:
1. One of the great problems that the Old Mobility folk (and if that is not clear may I invite you to check into the Old Mobility section of the New Mobility Advisory/Briefs – you will find it if you click to http://www.oldmobil ity.newmobility. org/ ) have with the challenges of human beings and social complexity, as opposed to the nice smooth world of vehicle throughput and its kissing cousin speed, is that straight lines, heavy loads and higher speeds are not necessarily the best solution to the problems of a complex democratic society.
2. The assumption of the experts and ultimately the politicians and administrators who made up this entire project is that the old US model is what “these people’ need. A quarter of a billion taxpayer dollars (hey, that’s MY money) buying them (whether they want it or not) a ‘high standard’ US road at a million dollars a kilometer (please, try to imagine what could be done with this money if the real problems and priorities had been addressed! But no, let’s start with our solution and who cares about the problem. Eh? Oh how heavy it is the White Man’s Burden. (Did anyone think to explain to them that it’s 2006 and the rules of the game have changed?)
3. What strikes me in the first place and above all is that the right road under these circumstances would NEVER go in a straight line. For all kinds of reasons.
n First, it ignores the social and cultural topography, something that is every bit as important in any society as the physical landscape. All those signals that the protesting locals are giving are in fact part of the solution, not part of the problem.
n Second, straight lines inevitably induce speed. So out they go. We need to design roads that will both accommodate basic needs and ensure the well being of all those whom it is intended to serve.
n Third, a high speed road induces the kid of rolling stock that takes advantage of the potential for high speed and heavy loads. But is that what we really want and need in this and thousands of other contexts – and not only in rural communities of the Third World.
n Fourth, lower speeds – much lower speeds in fact, and I would need to hear some convincing arguments indeed for designing such roads to accommodate more than 30 kph speeds – permit the road to accommodate many of its traditional economic and social roles. Vendors including of local produce, tire and vehicle repair, and of courses all kinds of walkers who are not only numerous but very important. And all this on the streets of New York City or serving people and the economy in Aceh!
4. A good road will serve the full range of social roels and needs. In poorer countries in this new and one would dearly like to think more aware century, the favored transportation should be what most people can afford – human powered means, for both personal and goods traffic. You can design and build for that and while I am not an engineer I bet that you can get a lot more than a kilometer of such appropriate roads for a million dollars than just one.
At this point let me get out of the way and invite you to read on. But once you have had your look, I would like to invite you to have a look at a few videos that we have set aside for your attention in this context only this morning. It’s pretty simple stuff by way of presentation, but the messages are anything but. To get to them, please click to http://newmobilityb riefs.org, then on the left menu The Challenge/Old Mobility videos –you’ll see.
And now your comments?
Delays mire U.S. road project in Aceh
By Jane Perlez The New York Times
Published: October 8, 2006
KEUTAPANG, Indonesia A $245 million stretch of blacktop intended to be the signature good-will gesture from the American people to survivors of the 2004 tsunami has instead become a parable of the problems of Aceh's recovery.
Construction of the 240-kilometer road, about 150 miles, along the devastated coast has yet to start, stalled by a host of obstacles, like acquiring right of way through residential and farm land; schools; and, particularly sensitive, several hundred graves of mystical and religious significance.
Though villagers welcome the idea, some have reservations about an American-style thoroughfare with a wide shoulder on either side that will replace the ribbon of churned dirt and mud. Villagers say they fear speeding traffic - they have thrown rocks at fast-moving cars of foreign aid workers - and want to be able to sell snacks and tea from stalls snug by the roadside, as they have always done.
The difficulties of getting started on the road, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Indonesia, reflect the weariness among tsunami survivors with the long return to normality.
A demonstration outside the main Indonesian reconstruction agency turned violent last month when protesters complained they still lacked basic services and demanded more money for education.
The patience of American officials is wearing thin, too. They complain that the government has been too slow in buying up the land and resolving the fraught issue of the graves.
Lately, the Americans have become so disconcerted about delays that they have tried to pry more action from the Indonesians by suggesting that the money for the road could be diverted to the United States reconstruction efforts in Lebanon.
"It was threatened they would take the money away," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, director of the Indonesian rehabilitation and reconstruction agency in Aceh. He added with a shrug: "That's standard. I just swallow everything for the sake of the road."
The Indonesians say the Americans are imposing first world standards of efficiency on a poor region that was pounded by civil war and then swamped by the tsunami, which killed more than 100,000 Indonesians. Records of land titles were washed away, and questions of inheritance among devastated families take a while to decide, they say.
The idea for the road evolved soon after the tsunami when the Bush administration wanted to show that the United States cared about Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, in its moment of need.
It was decided early on to finance one substantial American project that would make a splash rather than a number of smaller ones. At first, rebuilding a significant portion of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, into a kind of "signature city" was proposed.
Instead, a well-engineered road from the capital to Meulaboh, the southernmost coastal town, which was nearly completely wiped out, was considered a more fruitful project that played to the American strength of fast and modern construction. The new road would connect the poor fishing communities of the wasted west coast of Aceh to the outside world.
But the Americans did not anticipate the long negotiations over compensation for land or the strong local feelings about the graves.
Tucked under a grove of coconut trees, a pale-hued boulder and an ancient tree trunk represent this village's most mystical grave, the place where a white tiger is believed to run loose in the event of human transgression. Nearby, red and yellow flags left by surveyors indicated the American road is set to plow right through the sacred spot.
A local elder, Mohammed Noor, 60, who forded a river and clambered over fences to show off the grave, says he cannot imagine that it could ever be moved.
The problems with the road have not only to do with Indonesian sensibilities. An audit by the Inspector General of the United States Agency for International Development last March said the design of the road was delayed because the development agency asked the contractor to modify the design plan at least four times.
It also noted that when the contract for the engineering work was awarded to the American firm Parson Global Services, it was awarded in November, four months late.
By May, when the process was bogged down, a veteran of building big American projects abroad, Roy Ventura Jr., was brought in by USAID to expedite things.
On June 29, Ventura said he presented the Indonesians with the final plan for where the road would run. He was told by Indonesian government officials, he said, that right of way would be ready so construction could begin for the first portion of the road to the village of Lhoong by July 25, and by Oct. 3 in the area farther south to the town of Calang.
According to that schedule, American officials said they expected the first eight kilometers of the road to be completed by Aug. 23, and that new sections of the road would continue to unfold after that.
But instead, USAID is paying the Indonesian road contractor, Wijaya Karya, about $100,000 a month to maintain the old road, money that should be going toward the new construction, American officials say.
"The Americans are arguing that there should have been land acquisition a year ago," said Kuntoro. "But how could that happen when we did not know from the Americans where the road was running until June 29?"
Kuntoro, a graduate in engineering from Stanford University who understands American impatience for fast results as well as he knows the Indonesian preference for discussion, sometimes to the umpteenth degree, has become the point man for many of the problems.
He has been visited in his office in Banda Aceh by the American ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe, by Ventura, and this week by investigators from the General Accounting Office in Washington. They all ask the same thing: When will enough continuous land be ready so that bulldozers can begin clearing the way?
In fact, Kuntoro said in an interview Tuesday, he had just written a letter to Pascoe saying that his agency had gained title to 5.4 kilometers of continuous land and major construction could start.
But on Thursday, Ventura said that he was not satisfied that the titles were transferred, and that work could only begin on a bridge involving a sliver of land.
"The road itself is no different to any place in the world," said Ventura, who was with the Montana Highway department for 10 years and has managed construction sites in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Philippines. "The process of getting right to the land to get the road built is very different."
In an exchange with the Governor of Banda Aceh, Mustafa Abu Bakar, the frustrated Americans suggested that the governor consider using eminent domain procedures for speedy possession of the land. In reply, the governor said in a letter that in order to keep community support for the road he would use eminent domain only as a last resort.
"The government sees the people here as victims of the tsunami and very vulnerable," said Eddy Siregar, a construction manager for the Indonesian contractor, Wijaya Karya, as he sat on the side of the old road in the village of Pasi, watching his men do maintenance instead of new construction. "It would be a big trauma if their land was taken. So they want to try the soft way."
Late Wednesday afternoon, Noor got word that his village leaders had agreed with the provincial authorities to move the grave of the white tiger.
"I can't imagine how they will do it," said a crestfallen Noor. "Will they do it nicely, or will they do it roughly?"