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Firm rebuilds major national road in the Republic of Congo

By BAO CHANG | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-30 02:16

In the west-central African country of the Republic of Congo, Mayombe is a name that inspires both love and hate in local residents.

Mayombe is a vast expanse of virgin forest with more than 300 kinds of plants. For Congo, one of the world's most undeveloped nations, the Mayombe, with rich reserves of nature resources and wood, is a national treasure.

Firm rebuilds major national road in the Republic of Congo

A man poses with flags of the Republic of Congo and China on Thursday in Brazzaville on the eve of a visit by President Xi Jinping. Junior D Kannah /AFP

However, the ancient forest lies between Brazzaville, the nation's capital city, and its second-largest port city, Pointe-Noire. Out of repair for years, the old national road, which once linked the two cities, has been submerged under forest growth and rainwater.

Firm rebuilds major national road in the Republic of Congo

Connecting the country's political center to its economic hub is a dream of the Congolese.

When staff of China State Construction Engineering Corp, the world's largest construction contractor by revenue, arrived in 2008, it was time for the Congolese people to make their dream come true.

"Get through the Mayombe forest, and we will achieve success and honor," said Li Jiqin, general manager of the CSCEC overseas business department, in May 2008 during the ceremony that launched the Congo National No 1 Road project.

Negotiated during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2006, the Congo National No 1 Road project was the biggest infrastructure contract signed between the two countries that year.

With a total length of 580 kilometers, the road will connect the capital city, the second-largest port city, the third-largest city and many other cities and towns.

Once construction is completed, the road will benefit more than 65 percent of Congo's total population of 4.2 million.

The 164-km first phase of the project is finished, and the road was opened to traffic in October 2011.

"Go forward, go forward, Chinese people are making history in Mayombe." That's the faith that encouraged and strengthened the determination of each Chinese worker to build a high-quality transportation lifeline in the dangerous area.

Of the more than 1,000 Chinese builders on the construction team, more than 800 were infected with tropical illnesses in various degrees, including malaria, typhotoxin, filariasis and dengue fever.

Unknown kinds of worms and snakes have been a severe threat to Chinese workers' health and safety. Even pythons and crocodiles waited underbrush and in rivers.

The area has a rainy season of more than six months, so the construction period is only six months. When the rainstorms come, the road instantly turns into a mess of swamps, rivers, mud and potholes.

However, none of the Chinese staff retreated. In the Mayombe area, estate owners and local people all became accustomed to the scene of tireless Chinese builders working all night with lights blazing, and with machines operating day and night.

The three years of construction and living in Mayombe will be unforgettable for each Chinese member of the project team.

"Many people think it's impossible to build a road in Mayombe, but I am intending to announce that we can do it," Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, said when inspecting the road construction.

The second phase of the project is now under way. CSCEC is planning to hire more local people, as an effort to provide more job opportunities and boost local residents' salaries, CSCEC said.

The first phase of the project employed as many as 4,000 local people, and the second phase also hired 3,000 local employees, lifting the local employment rate to a record high.

"The welfare that CSCEC provides to local workers is unprecedented," a local government official said.

CSCEC built new dormitory, lavatories, trade markets and restaurants tailored to local people.

The State-run construction group also offered local people training in management systems, safety, technical regulations, work procedures, and reward and punishment systems, which could promote professional skills and comprehensive qualities of local workers quickly.

To guarantee local workers' health, CSCEC established three medical clinics on the construction lines and continually held medical training for local workers' relatives.

To supply local people with drinking water, CSCEC management set up a pipeline in their encampment to furnish the local people with clean underground water for free.

Since 2010, CSCEC has eased the water shortage for more than 80 villages within the area, which were strongly welcomed by local residents.

The CSCEC management team also bought textbooks, exercise books, small blackboards, ballpoint pens, pencils, soccers, file boxes and other necessities for local primary schools.

They made renovations to the existing buildings and facilities, which primarily improved children's studying conditions.

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