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Sh10.8b road big boost to trade between Lamu and Tana River

COAST
By Philip Mwakio | June 9th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta opens the Garsen-Witu-Lamu road last month. [PSCU]

The tarmacking of the Sh10.8 billion Garsen- Minjilla-Mokowe road is set to boost trade between Lamu and Tana River counties.

Lamu is the biggest supplier of fish and vegetables while Tana River supplies most of the meat and milk consumed in the Coast region. However, poor roads have hindered farmers from delivering their goods to the market in good time, resulting in losses.

“The road is expected to facilitate trade and movement of the people,” said former Lamu governor Issa Timamy, under whose tenure the project started.

The 113-kilometer road project, funded by the national government, includes a 19-kilometre road leading to Mpeketoni trading centre, and is vital highway that connects Lamu and the mainland.

The upgraded road is part of the corridors used in transporting raw materials for the construction of the Lamu Port. The road is also expected to play a big part in transporting  cargo to and from the port.

Despite the challenges they faced for years, dealers have relied on the road to transport fish and fish products to markets in Malindi, Kilifi and Mombasa, among others.

The road has been in a deplorable state since independence in 1963. Recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta took a trip on the new road before he commissioned it at Idsowe bridge.

“We started work in mid 2018 and for an entire year, we could not move an inch due to persistent insecurity in the area,” said Joseph Schwartzman, the chairman and CEO of H Young & Company (East Africa) Limited, the contractor.

“During the initial days, there were limitations due to insecurity that affected our working hours. The government later deployed Kenya Defence Forces soldiers to boost security which made it possible to tart working again.”

Flooding due to heavy rains also affected construction works.

“Many people displaced from their homes by floods set up temporary structures near the construction site. This slowed us down,” said Schwartzman during the ceremony.

Shwartzman noted that the constructors also had to cross a lagoon where over 60,000 rocks were placed prior to the start of main construction works. According to Shwartzman, design works, building and supervision was fully done by Kenyans. 

Lamu leaders have termed the road upgrade as a game-changer. Timamy said it was a dream come true for the residents who frequently use the road.

“We are hoping that this road will not only spur development in our region but also attract major investors,” he said.

At the same time, Timamy urged the government to give priority to qualified Lamu graduates to take up jobs at the new Lamu Port.

“There are over 400 graduates who could take up jobs at the mega project,” said the former governor.

Governor Fahim Twaha said the operationalisation of the port, which some viewed as a gamble, was an assurance that the project was beneficial.

“We expect massive infrastructure development in Lamu island as the new port opens up as a hub for regional transhipment trade,” he said.

Some of the benefits include development of tourist hotels, an international airport, oil refinery depots and a Standard Gauge Railway line. “The port will breathe new life into Lamu and our youth will benefit from direct and indirect jobs arising out of it,” he said.

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