What ails Voi township
By Pascal Mwandambo
| Jan 15th 2015 | 4 min read
Kenya: To a casual observer, Voi town in Taita-Taveta County is among the fastest growing urban centres in the coast region.
To a visitor, the rapid growth of the town is an indicator of the huge economic potential it holds, being located next to the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway, the Nairobi-Kisumu railway line and the expansive Tsavo National Park.
Voi missed out on becoming one of the tourism resort cities in Coast region in line with vision 2030. The main problem being lack of enough land for expansion and lack of a watertight master plan that could guide this rapid expansion.
However, beyond this seemingly rapid expansion and development lies a challenge that might soon become a nightmare to town planners.
Initial blueprints that had been designed to guide the planning of the town have largely been ignored. It is not uncommon to find triangular plots in the town, not by design but by default.
According to the Managing Director of the Taita-Taveta Water and Sewerage Company (Tavevo) Peter Shwashwa, the poor planning of the town has been a big challenge to the water company when it came to the issue of laying pipelines and connecting water to new buildings.
“Some of the town planners who came to Voi in recent years totally ignored the wayleaves that had been demarcated for water pipelines and future expansions and allocated plots which ended up over lapping the way leaves. Some of the Part Development Plans designed by the then Voi Municipal Council planners also added to the confusion as they disregarded the sections set aside for water pipes,” Shwashwa told Home & Away.
He cites an example of the problems they encountered while laying the Sh137 million Msinga 2 Pipeline funded by the World Bank, which was meant to double the water supply to Voi town and its environs.
“The Msinga 1 Pipeline was put up in the 1960s and a wayleave of nine metres on both sides of the pipeline clearly demarcated for future expansion. However, when the Msinga 2 Pipeline was being put up in 2013 we encountered a lot of problems because people had constructed houses right on top of the new pipeline wayleave,” says Shwashwa.
However, he point out that eventually the World Bank compensated those who were affected before they moved out to pave way for the ambitious water project, which will be commissioned later this year.
He adds that even at the moment, the company is having problems connecting new buildings to the water mains because of lack of a throughway for the pipes.
“Sometimes we are forced to incur extra expenses putting up water pipes along longer routes to new buildings because the shorter and more economical routes have already been blocked by other buildings,” said the Tavevo MD.
The lorry park was moved to Maungu township after the area earmarked for the same was grabbed, while the slaughter house at Kariokor was deemed a health hazard as it was located in a residential area. It was moved to Ndara where it still faces challenges, especially availability of water.
The plot that was initially allocated for a social hall has now been turned into an open air market. An alternative site for this social amenity has so far not been identified.
And the plot meant for a public toilet in the Voi CBD was reportedly grabbed by a private developer.
In 2007, the public health department sued the then Voi Municipal Council to compel the local authority to put up a public toilet in the CBD and also relocate the abattoir in Kariokor to a safer location as it was deemed a public health hazard.
Lawyer Duncan Mwanyumba who represented Voi Municipal Council in the case filed at the Senior Resident Magistrate Court in Voi said the local authority hastily put up the current public toilet even without bidding for a qualified contractor because the matter had been cited as urgent.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that initial blueprints that were designed to guide the planning and expansion of Voi town have largely been ignored or overtaken by time and it’s high time the county designs new master plans to put a check on the runaway expansion,” says Mwanyumba.
The Voi CBD does not have a proper sewerage plan and it’s not uncommon to find the filth flowing freely in the town.
“Without basic amenities, residents might be exposed to water borne diseases and other ailments associated with lack of proper sanitation,” says Mnjala Mwaluma, the secretary of Mwasima Mbuwa Welfare Association, which as been fighting for land rights of squatters in the county.
“In the event of a fire it would be hard to access most of the houses and buildings in Voi. The same applies to accessibility for sewage removal by the exhausters,” says Mwandawiro wa Mbela, a resident.
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