|Busia town [PHOTOS: JECKONIA OTIENO/STANDARD]|
By JECKONIA OTIENO
Busia County, on the border of Kenya and Uganda, may be a link between Kenya and Uganda — and as a far as Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
But planning experts are raising alarm over its diminishing stature. During a recent workshop to discuss the border town’s status, the experts said thag Busia miserably “misrepresents” Kenya.
Moses Kola, a planner, said the town’s beauty was steadily diminishing. Prof Pancras Opata, another planner, said the town is being characterised by low-income, poor housing, which has failed to attract technocrats to the town.
The workshop pointed out that only Milimani, which houses civil servants, has the allure that lacks in other estates to attract middle-income population.
Shanties have also started coming up in the town, with the growth of informal settlements such as Marachi and Murumba. Busia has just one major tarmac road, which connects Mombasa to Kampala and beyond. The road itself is dilapidated with potholes that get worse during the rainy season and often congested with traffic.
The story is different on the Ugandan side of the border where there is order and planning.
The planning experts at the workshop blamed chaos bedeviling Busia on failure by authorities to implement “plans that look good only on paper”.
The haphazard nature of development in Busia is quite vivid: Just near the bus terminus, there is a mixture of tall and short buildings lining up the dirt roads. Busia’s tallest building stands majestically, overlooking the bus park, which in itself is a mess.
Not far behind it is a dumpsite and an open field. The dumpsite is testimony that waste disposal still remains a challenge. The airstrip will be relocated because there is no land for expansion. Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong says about Sh80 million has been set aside to acquire land to build an airport.
The local planning office has drawn a plan that is awaiting approval. The plan has incorporated two bypasses, which are expected to open up the town and ease traffic flow.
The Northern Bypass will start from Works and will join Busia-Malaba Road, while the Southern Bypass will start from the hospital to Mauko. In an attempt to ease traffic, the road will be upgraded to a class “A” road.
Busia is also still affected by the fact that the central business district is yet to be defined. The local planning office says that definition will mean reorganising users.
“Some users and institutions in the town will have to be moved to effect the plan,” says a government planner.
Busia is yet to be fully covered by sewer services since the town slopes on both sides, making it a bit challenging to have a single sewer network. Just one side of the town is covered by sewer services. But the sewer pond has been proposed at Alupe.
Provision of water services have gone beyond the town’s boundaries and this is good news to potential investors in the real estate sector. It is clear that Busia has outgrown its size hence the need for a new mode of operation.
There is shortage in commercial buildings in Busia and experts argue that the few that exist are built in wrong places.
During the workshop, Prof Opata said Busia lacks an industrial zone. Equally lacking is a service sector. Residents of Busia decry the incessant power outages that affect the town.
Security in the town is topmost in the governor’s plan as he mulls over turning the town into a 24-hour economy. Ojaamong says that currently, the town has no street lighting but that there will be a short-term plan to start the journey to make the town active and safe at night.
The governor’s wider plan, however, is to make the county safer from all fronts. Speedboats will be bought to patrol Lake Victoria. The governor says that to avoid a situation like what has been witnessed in Nairobi over the years, other towns like Nambale and Sio Port will be developed as alternative urban centres to prevent congestion.
Busia has a county executive committee in charge of urban development. The team is tasked with overseeing the growth of urban areas in the county.
The governor is, however, categorical that congestion must be avoided by making the towns grow concurrently.