The ambitious plans to transform Nakuru town into a city are at an advanced stage.
Already, several projects are ongoing, while a team to ensure the town gets the status by December has hit the ground running.
In September 2017, the Cabinet approved elevation of two more towns to cities, to bring the total number to five. The capital Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu are cities and Nakuru and Eldoret are expected to receive charters by December, according to sources.
“At the county level, we also formed a Nakuru City Upgrade Committee to ensure all departments within the County Government play their role to ensure we match the status,” Governor Lee Kinyanjui says.
Some of the projects the governor is talking about is the reconstruction and rehabilitation of low-volume sealed roads by county and national governments at the cost of Sh1.8 billion.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) has moved to ease traffic congestion, especially within Nakuru town.
According to various government agencies and documents seen by the Saturday Standard, the three-year project seeks to pave 22km of roads diverting from the main highway, which is expected to reduce the number of vehicles that pass through the towncentre.
KURA Planning and Environment General Manager Daniel Muchiri, who toured project sites, said the roads will link several residential, industrial and trading centres. The roads serve Menengai and Milimani estates and seek to improve access to Nakuru GK Prison, London estate and part of the western side of the town. They also link Industrial Area, Kaptembwa, Bondeni, Naka, Free Area and Mwariki estates of the eastern part of the town.
The project being undertaken by Chinese firm, Weihai International Economic and Technical Cooperative, will run for 30 months. Sh181.5 million had already been paid to the contractor to start the work. “The project also entails construction of walkways, culverts, bridges and soil erosion protectors,” Muchiri says.
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KURA South Rift Regional Manager Sylvia Mwangi says the contractor is mobilising equipment while the agency is carrying out a feasibility study on the construction of two bypasses.
“We have suggested routes that are being examined for suitability and once it is done, the project will start,” she says.
But the project is facing challenges, including fences, power lines and business premises along the routes.
“We have also been forced to reroute some essential services like water pipes, drainage systems and power lines falling within the road radius,” Muchiri says.
Governor Kinyanjui says his administration is going flat out to ensure Nakuru gets the city status: “We are in the process of upgrading health facilities, greening of the town through tree planting, beautification and rehabilitation of public parks, including Nyayo Gardens, and enforcement of the Buildings Code and Physical Planning Act.”
In the current financial year, the county has allocated more than Sh40 million for beautification and greening of two public parks in Nakuru and Naivasha towns. The legendary Nyayo Gardens in the heart of Nakuru town is set to undergo a transformation with the help of the GreenBelt Movement.
“The design is already in place and we are looking for more private partners to invest in the project that will see a major transformation of the park that was constructed to commemorate 10 years of President Daniel Moi’s rule,” said a senior county official involved in the planning.
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The Nakuru City Upgrade Committee has been meeting under the leadership of Environment executive Festus Nge’no. Although its activities have been a guarded secret, sources say the team is behind the ongoing initiative to ensure all buildings are in compliance with the Building Code.
“We issued a 90-day notice that expires on August 31. It requires, among other things, for building owners to paint their premises, pave pedestrian walkways and remove any obstructions,” Kinyanjui adds.
To ensure compliance, the county government has set up desks in all sub-county offices to formalise all development that were carried out without approval. There is also a programme to name and rename all roads and public places.
And residents are happy with the idea, but want the county government to first streamline its services.
“There is need to look at things like storm water drainage, taxes, street lighting, recreational parks and eco-friendly amenities,” says Peter Kimutai, a resident of White House estate. We could emulate what is being done by countries like Singapore. However, any new initiative must be approved by wananchi and their representatives,” says Florence Chemutai, a trader on Kenyatta Avenue.
The County Assembly is also upbeat. “We are working with the executive, especially after the Cabinet’s approval of the elevation.
“We are also helping in shaping the relevant legislation required,” says Speaker Joel Kairo.
The county and the national government agencies involved are determined to overcome hurdles that could stand in their way. These include poor urban planning, faulty drainage system and inadequate sewer lines.