Italian consortium wins $95 mln bridge contract in Botswana wildlife refuge

A male African fish eagle flies in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, file.

GABORONE (Reuters) - Botswana has awarded a 1 billion pula ($95 million) contract to a joint venture between Italian companies Itinera and Cimolai to build a bridge in the remote Okavango Delta, a major tourist draw renowned for its wildlife. The project, which will be fully funded by the government and involves the construction of a 1.1 km long road bridge and pedestrian walkways, is expected to be complete in July 2019. It will replace a pontoon service across a section of the Delta. "An environment impact assessment was done since the Okavango Delta area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make sure construction will not disturb the environment," Elias Magosi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, told a media briefing. At certain times of the year, the Okavango Delta is home to some of the greatest concentrations of African wildlife, and development has generally been kept to a minimum there. It floods during Botswana's winter dry season, making it a magnet to herds of elephants and other animals. ($1 = 10.6610 pulas) (Reporting by Johannesburg newsroom; editing by Susan Thomas)