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To relieve congestion in the capital Antananarivo, the government plans to build two cable car lines for an amount of 152 million euros. But this project, supported by France, is strongly criticized by the population. In question, a route disputed by heritage defenders but above all a ticket price inaccessible to the vast majority of Malagasy people.
This is one of the flagship projects of André Rajoeilna’s presidency: building two cable car lines to solve the scourge of traffic jams in Antananarivo, the Malagasy capital which is experiencing urban growth as phenomenal as it is chaotic.
According to the government, this new means of transport must meet the challenges posed by aging infrastructures, less and less adapted to a capital of 3 million inhabitants but whose population could double within 15 years.
The cable car is supposed to drastically reduce travel times and pollution in the city of twelve hills, the highest of which is 1,430 meters above sea level. According to the mayor of the city, Naina Andriantsitohaina, the cable car will be able to transport 40,000 passengers per day and will allow “to make in thirty minutes a journey representing one and a half to two hours by vehicle”.
“The Antananarivo cable car project is primarily motivated by our desire to provide a green and efficient solution to our fellow citizens who suffer the economic and health consequences of traffic jams every day”, assures Gérard Andriamanohisoa, Secretary of State in charge of New Cities and Habitat, in an interview given to the Ecofin agency.
Madagascar would thus follow the example of other large cities with difficult topography such as Lagos in Nigeria, Cape Town in South Africa or Medellin in Colombia.
“People could not give their opinion”
But this project of 152 million euros carried by the authorities, the most expensive ever carried out in the capital, is far from being unanimous with the Malagasy population. His opponents won, Monday, January 17, a first battle, since the government promised that it would review the route of the work.
One of the two lines was to cross the sacred hill of Andaholo where there are emblematic buildings of the capital, such as the cathedral and the Rova of Manjakamiadana or Queen’s Palace, which was the residence of the sovereigns of the island in the 19th century.and century. A sacrilege for the association of Friends of Madagascar’s heritage, already scalded by the construction in 2020 of a concrete Colosseum in the historic center.
“With the construction of the cable car, the hope of the historic center being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be definitively lost”, alarmed France 24 Frédéric Rabesahala, president of the Friends of Heritage association, which ensures not to be against the project but against the construction of a station near the Palace of the Queen.
Beyond its historical and symbolic value, this sacred hill could be weakened by the construction of pylons, increasing the risk of landslides, frequent in the upper town of Antananarivo during the rainy season.
“Overall, there was a lack of consultation. This is probably what makes today there is frustration because people were unable to give their opinion”, summarizes Frédéric Rabesahala.
Also at the center of criticism, the advertised price of the ticket: around one euro one way. This will make this cable car simply inaccessible to a large part of the population, two thirds of Malagasy people living on less than 1.67 euros per day.
For many residents, the authorities should tackle much more urgent problems as the capital has just experienced the worst flooding in its history since 1959. Between the dilapidation of the dykes, the lack of evacuation channels, anarchic developments and poor waste management, the priorities are not lacking.
>> To see, the Reporters program: Madagascar, at the end of hope
In France, voices are also raised to question this project supported by a loan from the French Treasury and a loan guaranteed by the Public Investment Bank (BPI).
The communist senator Pierre Laurent thus deposited on December 16 a written question to the Minister of the Economy Bruno Lemaire to ask him to abandon this development which “appears scandalous to many Malagasy people and even to a very large part of the French community”.
“In Antananarivo, there are power cuts every day, a famine in the south of the island, this project seems totally out of step with the basic needs of the population”, indignantly told France 24 Pierre Laurent , which recalls that this contract was awarded “obviously” without a call for tenders.
The cable car project was entrusted to the French companies Poma and Colas. The latter was sanctioned in early January by the World Bank for “collusion and fraudulent practices”. The institution accuses this rail infrastructure specialist, as well as Bouygues and ADP, of having circumvented the rules in the award of contracts.
“Instead of making development aid, we are in projects granted under questionable conditions to groups who first seek to profit from it”, regrets Pierre Laurent.
Contacted by France 24, neither Poma nor Colas responded to our requests.
According to the schedule set by the Malagasy government, work for the construction of the cable car could begin in the spring and be completed during the year 2023.
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