DRY STONE CAUSEWAYS
While access to means of transport is inevitably a problem for poor people in the South, the
lack of transport infrastructure can also isolate a rural area completely. Richard Tufnell
demonstrates an inexpensive way to overcome a common problem using local materials
In many parts of the world, where heavy seasonal rains occur, access and transport problems
can arise in remote rural regions during the rainy season. In these areas the most common
type of road is made of dirt, and these range from good government-maintained roads to
tracks where more or less the only form of maintenance is the clearance of stones to one side.
Many villages and
homesteads are served
only by these smaller,
tracks, and as they do
not have bridges they
are impassable by
pedestrians during the
hardship. Children are
unable to attend
school and supplies
cannot be brought in.
Some local bus
companies will not
provide a service at
any time if they cannot
use a route all the year
round, so these remote
communities feel even
more isolated. It is
also much more
Figure 1: An inexpensive and strong method of providing access at all
times of the year: a dry stone causeway
difficult for local
people to obtain jobs if they have no regular form of transport to use, and such regular
necessities as shopping are made long and difficult.
People are very aware that bridges can solve these problems, but normal bridges are very
expensive and money is rarely available. Efforts are often made to make a line of stones so
that people can at least cross on foot without becoming wet or muddy, but such is the force
of the water at certain times of the year that these are invariably washed away. It would seem
that little can be done, but in fact there is a very inexpensive and very strong method of
providing access at all times of the year, and that is a dry stone causeway.
A causeway is very like a bridge and serves exactly the same purpose, with one exception: it is
designed so that it can be submerged under water during very heavy rains. A concrete version
of this is known as a 'low bridge’, and examples can be seen in many parts of Africa. But
building a causeway with dry stone - in other words without using any form of cement or
concrete - has several major advantages.
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