I grew up in Southdowns, Gweru and even then my parents never allowed us to aimlessly roam around the neighbourhood. The concept of sitting Ebrijini/PaBridge was foreign, I always wondered why particularly boys would congregate at corners the whole day everyday. It was a regular meeting point (I have neighbours who every afternoon without fail will sit on the “bridge” and talk until nightfall. I have since moved from Gweru but still see them there each time I travel home.
Now in my head, I always knew ebrijini/pabridge was the wrong word to describe this structure. I read a lot as a kid, and “crossing the bridge when you get there” wasn’t this tiny fixture found at most household entrances and road junctions. A bridge was something way bigger, something that if you burnt you couldn’t just skip over it to get to the other side.
The name ‘culvert’ was introduced to us in our 3rd year during our wastewater engineering course at NUST. A culvert is generally a tunnel-like structure that allows water to pass under a roadway or railway (keep note of the bold, italised words- very important). Typically not more than 6 metres, culverts are usually embedded in the soil, which bears the major portion of the culvert load- compared to bridges that have piers and abutments that transfer the load to the ground. That part, where people sit, is called the headwall and the sloping sides are the wingwalls. These function as a retaining wall for protection against erosion, or as a means to divert flow. It is not meant as a footstool or chair😅.
Now to the reason I wrote this article (aside from hoping we call them culverts and headwalls from now on), is how we can maintain these structures from our homes. Because a lot of us don’t seem to know why they are there, some go ignored for years at a time, (even though we pass through the gate everyday).
WATER, WaTeR and water are three of the biggest problems that affect roads and general construction. At all times the water should have a way of draining away from the road and flow unimpeded to its destination. Now the owners in the picture above, on top of letting the roots of the tree destroy the culvert, they removed grass and decided to dispose of it in the waterway😅. This certainly doesn’t allow water to pass through.
Some residents go on to fill the waterway and plant beautiful lawns😅. Whilst aesthetically pleasing, this does not serve the purpose of the structure.
Those mosquitoes that bother you at night, the road failures at intersections may all be caused by the blockages from poorly maintained culverts and waterways.
Not all hope is lost though! We do of course have the amazing residents of Bulawayo, that go out of their way to maintain their culverts😍.
So, I urge all of us to step outside the gate regularly, take a look at your culvert and ask the following questions. Is the waterway clear? Is there a blockage in the culvert pipe? Do I need to add gravel to cover the exposed pipe? Are there trees/hedges whose roots could damage the culvert?
Once we all do this regularly, we help extend the lifespan of our vital infrastructure, and maybe, just maybe, we may be able to afford that space station on Mars.