Legacy: The roads and dams Uhuru built

Mau Mau road.

Land compensation hiccups are delaying the delivery of crucial projects in Mt Kenya that are at the heart of the Uhuru legacy.

The construction of the Sh30b 84-kilometre Kenol-Makutano-Sagana-Marua dual carriage is stuck at the border of Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties with land owners in the former yet to be paid to allow expansion of the road reserve.

The contractor in the section who is covering the Sagana-Marua stretch has already scaled down work on the section in Nyeri County and moved back most of the machinery to Kirinyaga County awaiting the compensation of affected land owners.

The president has been receiving daily updates on the progress of projects in his backyard but compensation seems to have stuck at the National Land Commission (NLC) nevertheless.

 All this had put doubts on whether the signature projects would be ready for commissioning by the time he leaves office in August.

Uhuru has been keen to launch this road stretch as well as mega-dams at Thiba in Gichugu, Kirinyaga, and Kariminu in Gatundu North, Kiambu County.

A spot check on the Kenol-Marua road shows the contractors are still working full steam and bridges at rivers Sagana, Sabasaba and Rwamuthambi together with the interchange to Embu and Meru at Makutano and the railway overpass at Makuyu. All are in good progress and set for completion by the end of the month.

Daily updates on the progress of the legacy projects in his backyard, which include roads and dams, have been mandatory since the start of the year to the Presidential Delivery Unit.

KeNHA chairman Wangai Ndirangu said the Sagana-Marua section required more acquisitions to expand the road corridor from 40 to 60 metres.

Mau Mau road, which is located in the hilly and challenging terrain of the Aberdare tea zone has had less success and is still hovering at below 50 per cent.

For both projects, KeNHA had projected to move the progress to 50 per cent by March and 100 per cent by August according to Eng Wangai.

One of Kenya's key infrastructure financiers - the African Development Bank (AfDB) says it has pumped Sh4.6 trillion to Kenya during the Uhuru presidency. AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said in early June that most of the funding went to infrastructure.

Speaking while inspecting the Kenol- Marua dual carriageway in the company of Transport CS James Macharia, the AfDB chief said infrastructure had taken Sh3.312 trillion (7per cent) of these funds.

Even Uhuru's harshest critics admit he has pushed the road construction envelope further from where his predecessor Mwai Kibaki left it although most observers are certain that there is little chance that the Sh27b Mau Mau cluster roads connecting the counties of Kiambu, Murangá, Nyeri and Nyandarua covering 540 kilometres will be completed by the end of his term.

A bridge on Kenol Road.

Former Transition Authority (TA) chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi said Uhuru had outperformed Kibaki even as it could be true that most of the roads he had built were designed or planned during the reigns of the later and first President Jomo Kenyatta.

“Around 1973, all major roads were mapped and land reserved for the same. Kibaki pushed the road-building design and strategy envelope but Uhuru went for the jugular. He set and exceeded by 1,000 kilometres the target of 10,000 kilometres of bitumen standards. This is when the previous three governments and the colonial regime combined had built 14,000 kilometres since 1898,” said Wamwangi.

Wamwangi said Uhuru will be remembered for the new modern network he had established including world-class interchanges, the Ndogo Kundu bypass at the Coast, the Nairobi expressway and dual-carriage strips outside the Nairobi epic entre.

“It might take very wrong time to outstrip his record,” said Wamwangi.

 The Kariminu dam in Gatundu North which cost Sh24b is fully complete and water is continuing since March to fill the 26.5 million cubic metres reservoir that sits on 600 acres.

Athi Water Works Development Authority (AWWDA) which owns the reservoir announced in March that the mega-dam which will supply Ruiru, Juja and Athi River towns with water was ready for water collection and would commence supplying before the end of June.

According to AWWDA boss Eng Mwangi Thuita, impounding is continuing well and is currently at 40 per cent (10.6 million cubic metres.)

Thiba Dam.

“There have been poor rains in the season but we are progressing well and are waiting for commissioning by the president any time now,” Thuita says.

Kariminu Dam is seen as a game-changer and a project Uhuru will be remembered for as it will open vast peri-urban real estate in Juja and Ruiru hitherto held back by water shortage.

The mega project had three main components among them the 59m-height dam, a water treatment plant with a capacity of 70,000 cubic metres per day and 67 kilometres of raw and treated water pipeline.

According to Thuita, Nairobi will benefit from 20,000 cubic metres of water from the dam even as 33,000 cubic metres are reserved fully for the expanding Juja and Ruiru.

“We are currently lobbying for a Treasury allocation of Sh5 billion to upgrade the facility to factor in supplies to Thika town which was not initially in the plan,” added Thuita.

Future supplies to Thika municipality will cover areas such as Maryhill, Karibaribi, Albizza and Ngoingwa that currently depend on erratic pumping from the Thika Water and Sewerage Company (Thiwasco) intakes near Bluepost Hotel.

Kariminu dam construction was expected to end in December 2020 after 36 months of work according to the schedule in a contract that was signed in May 2017.

 Thiba dam which cost Sh7.8 billion from the projected Sh8.2 billion is the other flower that has blossomed early in the last years of the Uhuru presidency.

Now being filled by at least a third of its 15.6 million cubic litres of water after the gates were closed for impounding in late May, the only thing standing between its full use and bounty harvests in Mwea Rice Scheme is inadequate rainfall in the season.

Thiba will see an additional 10,000 acres of paddy fields added to the existing 25,000 acres. It will also enable the cultivation of two cropping seasons with rice production projected to increase from 114,000 to 200,000 metric tons a year - a third of national annual rice consumption.

The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) which owns the facility said through Corporate Communications Chief Daniel Nzonzo that the dam was at 8.8 million cubic metres capacity by July 7 with 3.5 cubic metres per second being pumped daily into the paddy fields.

“The current inflow into the dam is 2.5 cubic metres per second indicative of the crisis that could currently be grappling the scheme if the storage was not in place,” added Nzonzo. “We anticipate that as water demand eases due to crop maturity, we shall be able to impound more into the dam towards the realizing full capacity.”

Western Bypass

An infrastructure project forgotten but tucked right in Mt Kenya region is the Sh17 billion Western Bypass project that covers 34 kilometres. The road links Nairobi’s Northern Bypass at Ruaka and the Southern Bypass at Gitaru town.

According to Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), the project includes the construction of seven interchanges at Gitaru, Lower Kabete, Wangige, Kihara, Ndenderu, Rumenye and Ruaka, was at 86 per cent and is set to be completed in September 2022.

Once the third ring-road bypass is launched, the authority is optimistic that the travel time between Gitaru and Ruaka will drop from 35 minutes to just 15 minutes.

While citing the completed Sh6 billion bypasses (including Sh1 million link roads) in Meru, political commentator and Jubilee Party Meru senatorial candidate James Mithika said the president had done well for the region, proving the doubting Thomases wrong.