LOCALS POORER

Western bypass brings only misery

Development must not be undertaken at the expense of the citizenry.

In Summary

• Residents along the route of the Western Bypass have complained of compensation to (lack of) employment, design, disruption of businesses, public participation and safety.

• The leadership in Kiambu, which sees, hears or says nothing about the fate of its people, has remained mum.

Representatives of Kenya National Highway Authority and China Roads and Bridges Company exchange signed agreements on the construction of the Western bypass.
Representatives of Kenya National Highway Authority and China Roads and Bridges Company exchange signed agreements on the construction of the Western bypass.
Image: FILE

Uhuru Kenyatta government's appetite for foreign loans is ravenous.

We are told that the loans are meant to accelerate the development of major infrastructure, including the railway network, roads and housing. This will in turn open up the interior, create jobs, thus spur development and eventually translate to some coins in the pockets of poor Kenyans. And when he finally bows out of the country’s leadership, this marvel of roads and railway lines will form the jewel in Uhuru’s crown.

We are told that in the long run these loans will transform the nation, but nobody is telling us that some of the development being undertaken is making Kenyans poorer, by robbing them of their businesses, homes and livelihoods. It is also an open secret that we, our children and their offspring will pay for these loans through sweat, blood and tears.

As the government, through these loans, builds roads and bypasses that will ease congestion to and into the city, it leaves those along these routes poorer and more miserable. A case in point is the ongoing construction of the Western Bypass.

The road from Gitaru in Kikuyu to Ruaka through Ndenderu is being done by one of the Chinese road construction ‘big boys’, who have no time for persons or businesses affected by the project. The Kenya Highways Authority (Kenha), which is the project owner, also does not give a hoot about the small man along whose properties the bypass passes.

Unsurprisingly, Kenha is under the Ministry of Transport whose boss is one James Macharia, the man who recently ordered the clobbering of striking Kenya Airport Authority workers and actually called them thugs. Seemingly, political leaders in Kiambu where the construction is taking place are afraid of criticising the manner in which the works are being carried out, lest they be accused of belonging to Tangatanga.

Maybe the most dangerous of the challenges facing people along the Western Bypass is the poor signage by the construction company and the poorly constructed diversions and detours. Diversion and detours are hurriedly and poorly done, posing danger to motorists and pedestrians. Most of the signage is made of light cardboard box material hanged on wooden sticks. As opposed to big firmly placed neon signs visible from a distance, these are barely visible.

Residents along the route of the Western Bypass have since the commencement of the construction, complained of the challenges that the works have brought forth and which range from compensation to (lack of) employment, design, disruption of businesses, public participation and safety among many others.

They have complained that the road in various sections is being built on Kenha’s right of way, without road reserve which kills businesses next to it and becomes a noise nuisance, especially at night. Those who own rentals along the route, some of which have been sliced off, have to contend with the traffic of their tenants packing and leaving for second-row apartments in other areas. Homeowners gulp the fumes and dust, staring at disease and death. A road constructed this way also becomes unsafe, especially for children living in houses adjacent to the road.

Maybe the most dangerous of the challenges facing people along the Western Bypass is the poor signage by the construction company and the poorly constructed diversions and detours. Diversion and detours are hurriedly and poorly done, posing danger to motorists and pedestrians. Most of the signage is made of light cardboard box material hanged on wooden sticks. As opposed to big firmly placed neon signs visible from a distance, these are barely visible.

While the Chinese firm has erected some bumps on the diversions they have created, their truck drivers zoom along these at full speed, dumping red soil and other construction material, making the road dangerous for other road users.

 

The other issue that has been raised is the lack of job opportunity for locals. While in others areas political and other leaders have vocally advocated for the employment of local youth in the duration of such projects, the leadership in Kiambu which sees, hears or says nothing about the fate of its people, has remained mum. The road design is a mystery and neither Kenha nor the construction company has conducted proper public participation.

Suffice to say that such projects should open the areas they pass through, lead to increase in value of property and create wealth through new business opportunities. The undertaking of the Western Bypass appears to be doing just the opposite. This project seems to be making the lives of those along the route much more insecure and disease-prone. Infrastructural development must not be undertaken at the expense of the citizenry.

But as all this goes on, Cabinet secretary James Macharia would care less and the leaders in Kiambu are too busy strategising for 2022. Mtatukuta!

But maybe Uhuru Kenyatta could look at some of these legacy projects from both sides of the coin.