State to fast track infrastructure projects in Kwale

An ariel view of the Mwachande Bridge in Funzi Island in Kwale County that is still under construction, November 14, 2023. [Courtesy, Transport Ministry]

The national government has committed to fast-track infrastructure projects in Kwale.

This will be achieved through the National  Government Development-County Implementation, Coordination and Management Committees (NGD-CICMC).

According to Kwale County Commissioner Stephen Orinde, the government desires to complete mega projects as quickly as possible to realise their full potential in supporting the economy.

Orinde assured that the government would increase community engagement and make environmental protection more effective.

Some of the key projects being implemented in Kwale by the national government include the Sh20 billion Mwache multipurpose dam project, Sh24 billion master class Dongo Kundu bypass, the Sh2.3 billion Diani Airport rehabilitation and expansion project and the Sh2.6 billion Shimoni fish port development project.

Others are the Sh1.15 billion Funzi causeway off the Milalani-Munje road, the construction of Sh3 billion Kwale-Kinango road, the Sh606 million regional maritime transport and port logistics centre and the Sh538 million Mwachande bridge that seeks to connect Msambweni and Lunga Lunga sub-counties.

Orinde said the infrastructure projects traverse an area where fishing, agriculture, and tourism are the main economic activities.

The administrator is optimistic that the projects would help create new jobs, open up opportunities for traders and boost the local economy.

“As the NGD-CICMC, we are determined to speed up the delivery of major infrastructure projects so that they support the government’s ambitions for economic growth and improving connectivity and transport links,” he said.

He expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done so far and said the government was committed to ensure completion of projects in Kwale.

However, NGD-CICMC members expressed concern over the slow pace of work for some of the mega projects.

The NGD-CICMC noted that many projects were running behind schedule mainly due to funding, complexity over designs, inadequate scope description, and planning and land acquisition.

Orinde said the issue of slow progress of physical work would be escalated to the Coast Regional Implementation Coordination and Management Committee (NGD-RICMC) for onward transmission to the National Development Implementation Committee (NDIC) for action.

Officials of project implementation agencies told NGD-CICMC that many projects were lagging behind due to inordinate delays in payment of contractors.

Orinde however, said some mega projects such as the Dongo Kundu bypass and the Shimoni fishing port project were nearing completion and their implementation rate was better.

Engineer Onesmus Ikoa of Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) informed the forum that the iconic Funzi island causeway project risked stalling after the contractor abandoned work.

Ikoa noted that the Funzi causeway spanning 500 meters and a two-kilometer road promised the island dwellers public access to the mainland in Msambweni sub county.

He said the contractor received Sh95 million as advance payment and the scope of works involved the construction of vented causeway, and improvement of approach roads to gravel standard.

“The contractor, Cementers Ltd, has pulled out and we are contemplating terminating the contract altogether and looking for a different contractor to execute the project,” he said adding that the 24-month contract period has elapsed against a 12.54 percent physical progress.

Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) Coast Region official Eng Lewis Maina said the Dongo Kundu bypass would provide road connectivity to the South Coast and the Dongo Kundu special economic zone for socio-economic development.

“The Special Economic Zone Development project at Dongo Kundu is one of the Vision 2030 flagship projects in the coastal region,” he said.

Maina noted that the Dongo Kundu bypass was an important transport corridor for traffic destined for the interior of Kenya and beyond.

He said the project straddles Kwale and Mombasa counties and starts at Mteza bridge to Kibundani along the Mombasa-Lungalunga highway.

“It will also provide connection from the Moi International Airport and SGR terminus hence improving tourism and hospitality in Kwale,” he said.

Maina said the bypass, also known as the Mombasa Southern Bypass Highway, would promote trade facilitation and improve socio-economic development.

He explained that the Kwale-Kinango road project is approximately 30 km long and the scope of work entailed construction to bitumen standards of a two-lane single carriageway.

“The contractor has mobilised well for the works with the majority of the required equipment and plant already on site but has requested for an extension of completion period due to insufficient budgetary allocation,” said Maina.

Kenya Ports Authority official Kenneth Mosop said Shimoni fishing port project is well on course but lacks a water connection.

"The water connection is supposed to be done by the Coast Water Works Development Agency at a cost of Sh318 million,” he said.

Mosop disclosed that the water agency has not been able to undertake the fresh water project due to lack of funds thus threatening to derail the fish port development project.

“The project status at the moment is at 40 per cent complete and the contractor, Southern Engineering Company Ltd has increased the speed of work,” he said adding that the project’s end date is September 2024.

He said the project faced challenges such as variation of designs due to the design review process including rapid technological advancements.