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There is hope for Murang'a airstrip where locals grow nappier grass

COUNTIES
By Boniface Gikandi | April 1st 2021
A Boda Boda rider trespasses on the proposed Murang’a airstrip land in Kiharu. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

The 18 acres for the proposed airstrip at Marewa village in Kiharu, Murang’a County, is teeming with crops and nappier grass.

Residents stripped the barbed wire and chain link from the perimeter fence that was used to secure the land after it was identified when the late John Michuki was Transport minister in the Kibaki government in early 2000.

When Standard Digital visited the proposed airstrip land that is located two kilometres from Kabirwa shopping centre, we found livestock tethered there while Boda Boda riders were using the open field to train.

Locals have also erected goalposts where they play football.

Experts toured

The land has been idle despite efforts by Gikonyo Kiano and Kenneth Matiba (both deceased) in the 1970s to push for the construction of the airstrip to benefit residents of Murang’a and the surrounding counties.

A resident, Jecinta Wanjiru, said they expected the facility to be opened by the late Transport Minister John Michuki between 2003 and 2005 as many aviation experts toured the area.

“We plead with President Uhuru Kenyatta to fulfil the promise he made when he attended a burial in the locality,” she said.

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Wanjiru, who was employed as a supervisor during fencing of the land, regretted that no activity has taken place since Michuki's demise. In the past, government officials used to regularly inspect the grounds.

Habel Karanja urged the government to construct the airstrip, saying this would boost the area that is a food basket and spur cottage industries.

“The area is rich and produces the best fruits that can be canned for the international market,” said Karanja.

Peter Kamoche, a resident of Mirira village, said the facility would boost investments in the area and create employment.

“Murang’a airstrip should be constructed to rival Nyaribo and Nanyuki airstrips in Nyeri County and further away from the Isiolo airport. We call upon Governor Mwangi wa Iria to request the authorities to accomplish the assignment started by Kiano, Michuki, and Matiba,” said Kamoche.

He noted that the proposed airstrip was surrounded by tarmacked roads and piped water distributed by Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company.

“The price of land went up after Kenya Rural Roads Authority tarmacked roads in the area from 2017 before piped water was connected to homes,” said Kamoche.

An acre of land near the proposed airstrip is going for Sh2 million up from Sh250,000 in 2010. Kamoche said horticulture and floriculture companies will use the airstrip to transport their produce.

When President Kenyatta attended the burial of Paul Mwangi Ayub in 2015, local leaders led by the governor requested him to consider the construction of the airstrip to honour the heroes from the area like former Cabinet ministers and the late Charles Rubia.

Iria said he has been in consultation with Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia over the facility.

“The aviation sector can help in the transformation of the areas where airfields will be established. There are hotels in Murang’a and the neighbouring counties of Kirinyaga and Nyeri that can be served by Kabirwa airfield,” said the governor.

The CS last week assured Murang’a MCAs that plans for the airstrip were on course.

“Leveling of the land will start soon and the government’s message is that plans for Murang’a airstrip have not been shelved,” said the CS.

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