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Perils of living in Nairobi’s leafy side

By Jeckonia Otieno | November 8th 2012

By Jeckonia Otieno

On a dry day, it takes Eric Mugambi ten minutes to walk from his hostel along Karen Road to Tangaza College – a kilometre away. But the walk becomes longer and torturous when the skies spew rain in torrents.

Mugambi and many others who use the Karen-Langata South roads have to wade through the fast running water, which ideally is the road that connects Karen Shopping Centre on one end of the suburb and Bomas of Kenya on the other.

The road turns into a river all the way from the turnoff to Marist International University College to Bomas junction even with slight rainfall.

Sick and tired

Rainy seasons portend unpleasant experiences, not only to the residents of Karen, but also the thousands who use it daily to go beyond Karen.

Drivers say that they are now sick and tired of the vicious cycle that the weather has wrought.
Many blame the situation on poor planning by the City Council, while others hypothesise that it is just due to climate change.

For many like Mugambi, the rains mean digging deeper into their pockets.

He says every rainy day, he has to either hire a potter to carry him across the road or have boda boda pick him from the gate, just to drop him across the road. This costs Sh50 per trip.

“If I have no money to pay them, then I have to remove my shoes, wade across the fast flowing water and then wear my shoes once I am safely across,” complains Mugambi about the misery.

Many other students in institutions of learning that dot Karen area face a similar predicament.
They say it is high time something is done to solve the problem once and for all.

Among those caught up in the quagmire are school children who have to literally fight for space  on the narrow road with vehicles. Apart from endangering their lives, they end up with uniform, shoes and school bags dotted in mud.

The area, which is relatively flat, is prone to flooding every time it rains yet the two rainy seasons this year have not made matters any easier after the only dam that would check the flow of water has been closed in anticipation of its improvement.

Excess run-off

The dam, which is situated near Hillcrest Schools, would help by retaining the excess runoff now causing havoc.

Sam Wafula, a security guard in the area, which is associated with affluence, says it has just become a hardship area, especially in the last two years, due the flooding.

Besides, the manhours spent on the road as vehicles are held in the traffic snarl-up that has become part and parcel of the daily routine for travellers within the area, which has been compounded by the construction of the 3km stretch dual-carriageway from the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters to the Bomas junction.

The jam that was initially associated with the bottleneck from where the dual Lang’ata Road ends, sometimes extends to as far as Multi-Media University, along Magadi Road. When it rains, the gridlock overwhelms even traffic officers who man the junction.

A police officer at the junction told The Standard that at times the public blame officers for causing traffic jams on purpose without understanding the forces that have conspired to render the situation helpless.

“When it rains like today and  this area is flooded, everybody is in a rush to get to their destination. We cannot man every section of the road yet it is the officers that are blamed. Before blaming us, people should consider other factors.”

Dan Opiyo, a newspaper vendor at the junction, says  it is unfortunate and bad for business when it rains as all drivers tend to fight for right of way thus causing a gridlock.

Constant menace

“Being here every day, I have seen how people behave along this road. Few drivers seem to be patient and this has ensured that the jam is a constant menace,” says Opiyo.

This has affected Opiyo’s business. He says many of his customers have been forced to leave for work or business earlier than usual to beat the permanent jam.

By the time he arrives with the newspapers for the day, they have gone. He has noticed that his sales have dipped in the recent past.

Equally affected are those using the feeder roads into residential areas and businesses along the road.

Interestingly, the floods create two hemispheres as the rushing water separates the two sides of the road near the Kenol Petrol Station.

Not spared are link roads to recreational facilities like Mamba Village, the shantytown of Kuwinda, and other homes as they have become difficult to  navigate.

What is disappointing to the road users and residents is that there seems to be no hurry in repairing the drainage or opening up the dam to contain the rapid flow.

It irks them that even senior Government officials, including ministers, who live in the area are not influencing the City Council to do something about these problems.

Residents argue that an outbreak of waterborne diseases is inevitable among other dangers associated with floods like short-circuiting that might occur in case running water comes in contact with underground electric wires.

Road maintenance has also become a challenge as the road needs repairs after every rainy season due to the numerous potholes that are caused by the running water.

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