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Pain of disruption as mega infrastructure projects take shape


A section of the Western Bypass under construction on September 21, 2020. There have been disruptions occassioned by the road works across various parts of the country. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

On March 12, the same day Kenya recorded her first coronavirus case, a government agency published a Gazette notice listing 56 parcels of land to be acquired for the Nairobi Expressway Road Project.

"The National Land Commission on behalf of Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) gives notice that the government intends to acquire the following parcels of land for the construction of the Nairobi Expressway Road Project," read the Gazette Notice number 2161.

The notice listed land parcels including those belonging to Doshi Holdings, Simba Colt Motors, Next Gen Office Suites, Dyer & Blair Investment Bank, Technical University of Kenya, the University of Nairobi and and Kenya Railways Corporation.

In September, the gravity of the notices was felt by tenants on these parcels when the demolitions touched the Nairobi Lunar Park and its neighbouring businesses which sit on the edge of Uhuru Park.

The amusement park, which has been in operation for a decade, as well as car yards, a restaurant and offices were to be demolished following the compulsory acquisition of the land belonging to the Kenya Railways Retirement Benefits Scheme. The demolitions caused outrage from tenants and the public, resulting in President Uhuru Kenyatta stating that the businesses will be allowed time to find alternative premises.


A demolished car yard at the Nairobi Railways Club on September 16, 2020. It was demolished to pave the way for a bus terminus. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG

Despite the temporary reprieve, the businesses will be required to relocate as the construction of the Expressway is on.

Pauline Opondo, one of the affected traders at the Lunar Park, said their displacement was a big financial blow, especially during this pandemic when business is already low. She also faulted the government for not giving them adequate time to move.

“Where will our employees go now that they will be rendered jobless? We have come from the long Covid-19 break. After renovating our business premises, we are being told to go away,” she told the Business Daily.

Away from the city, major disruptions await occupants of nearly 250 parcels of land targeted for compulsory acquisition for the Naivasha ICD-Longonot Station metre gauge railway line link. The State made its intention known through a Gazette notice dated September 4.

Besides building the new line, the State has also been upgrading the old colonial line as it prepares to increase the usage of train services by commuters. Kenya Railways has been evicting encroaching traders since the beginning of the year to pave the way for new stations. Such has been the fate at Mutindwa, Githurai and other markets where traders have been kicked out, despite protests and riots.

At the end of the project, Kenya Railways is hoping to ferry more passengers with the upgrade of the railway and have modern commuter stations in Donholm, Dandora, Pipeline, Embakasi Village, Kikuyu, Ruiru, Kahawa, Athi River, Githurai and Mwiki.


A man sits on what was a rail line at Embakasi, Nairobi on August 19, 2020. Kenya Railways has been rehabilitating the line in a government plan to ease traffic on roads. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

The city’s sewage infrastructure has struggled to cope with the growing population. And so this year in April and May the State moved to secure land earmarked for sewerage treatment plants in Ruai and Kariobangi, leaving many families out in the cold after their homes were flattened.

And to stimulate greater economic activity, the government plans to acquire 9,000 acres of land in Naivasha, Machakos and Mombasa, which it will designate as Special Economic Zones.

Every year, the government has been engaging in numerous infrastructure development projects. Even with compensation being claimed by landowners, tenants are usually left to bear the brunt of the evictions and demolitions, with the new infrastructure causing more pain rather than bringing joy to the thousands affected.

In 2018, Kibera residents, who had refused to move from a road reserve despite multiple warnings were served a rude shock when their residences were brought down, leaving thousands homeless.

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) brought down the structures for the Sh2 billion construction of the Ngong Road-Kibera-Langata Road link aimed at decongesting the two highways choking with traffic.

At least 30,000 Kibera residents, including schools and children homes, were affected.


A trader ponders his next move after his kiosk was destroyed to create space for the Western Bypass on September 21, 2020. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

In satellite towns including Kitengela, Ngong and Ongata Rongai, the signs were clear, quite literally. KeNHA and Kura marked all buildings sitting on road reserves or on the path of the SGR in red Xs, notifying land owners to bring down their structures or risk mass demolition.

Some heeded the warning, while others woke up to their structures being flattened by bulldozers at the crack of dawn, early last year. The roadside markets were not spared with trades finding their structures uprooted and produce worth hundreds of thousands destroyed.

Taj Mall at the junction of North Airport Road and the expanded Outering Road saw its tenants run from the property after construction of the new road cut off its entrance and exit as well as external parking. It was eventually reduced to a rubble.

The mall was among the more than 70 blocks of land allocated for the Outer Ring Road expansion.