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Muthurwa market dream has failed

By | Updated Tue, May 19th 2009 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Joe Kiarie and Kenfrey Kiberenge

Its construction was marketed as one of the boldest moves to control hawking and traffic congestion in Nairobi.

When then Local Government Minister Musikari Kombo, commissioned the construction in 2006, there was relief and accolades from the would-be beneficiaries.

And when President Kibaki finally opened the Muthurwa market and matatu terminus in December 2007, there was ululation.

Modern facility

It was said to be one of the most modern public facilities in Nairobi that would transform smallscale businesses.

It was also expected to ease traffic congestion in the city centre by acting as terminus for all public service vehicles from Eastlands.

Barely two years later, the market that cost Sh700 million to put up has failed to impress. Instead it has created more chaos than it had anticipated to resolve.

It has been branded a monument of poor workmanship. The Architectural Association of Kenya says the market was poorly designed and many aspects overlooked.

The market that was built in one year is nothing like it was envisioned.

The plan included a 24-hour market with basic facilities like water, restrooms, lighting, a hospital, a police station, multi-storied stalls, a banking hall and an administration office.

Chaotic

Sixteen months down the line, Muthurwa has become the epitome of chaos.

The 12-hectare complex has degenerated into a den of muggers where hawkers and matatu operators jostle for space.

Now, they are desperately clawing back into the city centre.

Burst sewers, dusty if not muddy roads, congestion, pickpockets and lack of water are some of the chaos that has become synonymous with the facility.

This is not to mention poor lighting that takes its toll on business as early as 6.30pm.

"The only floodlight that works is the one belonging to Kenya Railways. The City Council’s floodlights have never functioned and people are at the mercy of muggers once it is dark," says Mr Maurice Gitau, a driver plying the Komarock route.

Hawkers decry the situation. They wonder how they can sustain their businesses. Despite serving thousands of people, the market has no regular water supply and the sewage system, poorly done, is blocked.

One sewer has burst and is overflowing, exposing those at the market to danger in case of disease outbreak.

"We buy water every day. A 20-litre jerry goes for Sh20," says Ms Veronica Wanjiru, a food kiosk owner.

An eyesore

Those interviewed said they have complained several times over the blocked sewerage system, but nothing has been done.

"Water was disconnected just after the market was opened. We were told it was for contractors," says Mr Mureithi, a hawker.

Dust is an eyesore at the market. During the sunny spells, the vicinity, including neighbouring Muthurwa Estate, is all covered in thick dust from the rough access road linking Landhies Road to the parking bay.

And when it rains, the market is flooded and muddy.

The three flyovers that were to be used by those going to the market are white elephants.

And with most commuters keeping off the terminus due to the crime and dust, the matatus have followed suit and most now play cat and mouse games with law enforcers.

The chase game between hawkers and council askaris has resumed since the traders are back to the city centre.

Unlike when the market was opened, some stalls are empty as many traders shun the market. More than 7,000 vehicles are supposed to use the terminus daily. But the space is barely enough for 1,000 PSVs.

Nairobi Central Business District Association Chairman Timothy Muriuki calls for the expansion of the feeder roads to the terminus.

Inspector Gertrude Muyumba of the City Inspectorate says the market capacity cannot accommodate all matatus from Eastlands.

In shambles

Mr Robert Kiriago, the senior market superintendent at City Hall, acknowledges the market is in a shambles but says the issue is being addressed.

He says the contractor is yet to hand over the market fully.

"Muthurwa is still running on the contractor’s account and so many bills have not been paid ," says Kiriago.

But the superintendent says council engineers are on the ground to fix water pipes after the bills with the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company have been sorted out.