Asembo Bay roars back to life as Lake Transport revived

A waterbus at Asembo Bay in Rarieda sub-county. [Courtesy]

Benson Milando, 75, walks towards a rusty, dilapidated and abandoned jetty. Heavily leaning buildings and hyacinth-infested water have now characterized Asembo Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria.

For three years after they were told to relocate and property worth millions of shillings demolished to pave the way for the rehabilitation of the pier, Milando says the shrubs and reeds that were cleared have since overgrown as the wait gets longer.

More than 10,000 people who depended on the pier for survival have been living in despair as the county’s once vibrant economic hub with traders from Gem, Ugenya, Alego and even Seme coming to buy and sell their wares, now a pale shadow of its former self.

Three decades after the Indians, who owned almost all the shops in the beach departed, it has left a sour taste in the residents’ mouths, with questions emerging whether the harbour will one day wake up from the slumber to boom once again.

Half of the buildings are gone due to the iron sheets used to build them, which only lasted for 20-25 years.

Milando, born and brought up in the area, recalls how the beach used to be one of the most vibrant markets from 1953 to 1989, but that is just that - a distant memory.

Then, ships used to transport cotton and sisal ropes from Asembo Bay to neighbouring countries, he says.

Those interviewed by The Standard attribute the death of the harbour to the departure of the Indians, who moved elsewhere following the incessant theft of their goods by the locals.

“There were some locals who were not happy with the Indians dominating businesses in the centre and they therefore frustrated them,” explains Erick Okoth, a resident of the area.

Siaya Governor James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, Waterbus Company CEO Pritt Okoth and Head of Business Management, Ms Annie Ng’ang’a. [Courtesy]

From a favourable environment to a ready market and proximity to other centres such as Yala, Ukwala, Siaya and Sega, Kamito had everything any person would need.

For Okoth and Milando, the unending plans to restore the pier beach have remained a pipe dream.

But on Tuesday, there was joy and celebrations after the Asembo Bay pier was revived with the launch of a waterbus.

The event was attended by Siaya governor James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, Waterbus Company CEO Pritt Okoth and Head of Business Management, Ms Annie Ng’ang’a.

With the revival of the lake transport in the area, residents said it will not only ease transport but also boost trade between Siaya and Homa Bay counties.

The waterbus is set to link Asembo Bay-Kunya-Mainuga to Kendu Bay.

Speaking during the launch, Governor Orengo said the revival will open business opportunities to many through various avenues and also offer quick and affordable means of transport.

Orengo, who has promised to promote the blue economy, admitted that very little has been realized for a sector that not only employs thousands of people but also generates the highest revenue for the county.

He said that to make use of the resource, there needs to be an infrastructural framework like building piers that will allow bigger vessels to dock.

“We want to establish infrastructure that will make it possible for people to have ships. After this, we will get money to give to investors and establish a tax framework to guide the investors,” said the governor.

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