The government has launched dredging of Lake Victoria to revive maritime trade and open up the lake for other economic activities.
The contractor, Mango Tree Marine Limited is expected to dredge a stretch of 61.3 kilometers starting from the pier in Kisumu and going all the way to Mbita in Homa Bay.
The exercise involves removing silt to enhance the depth to 1.6 square meters around the Kisumu pier.
Once completed it will improve the refurbished Kisumu port’s capability to berth huge vessels, which will in turn help Kisumu grow into East Africa’s economic hub.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday flagged off a 70-metre long 4,000 tonne dredger signifying the beginning of the exercise which had stalled.
Raila asked the contractor to move with speed and complete the works within the stipulated time ahead of the planned reopening of the refurbished Kisumu port by President Uhuru Kenyatta in April.
The contractor, he disclosed, has also been tasked with expansion of the Kisumu port by 400 meters to create more room for vessels to dock.
“This port is now going to handle up to ten boats and this is going to revive economic activities in this area,” he said.
He added that besides dredging the port and piers along the lake, the Mbita causeway in Homa Bay would be opened to allow the gulf of the lake to breathe.
This, he said, would also reduce the time wasted by vessels destined to Tanzania which were forced to go round Rusinga Island.
“The contractor is going to remove the rubbles at Mbita causeway to allow vessels heading to Tanzania to pass under the bridge to save time,” he said.
The project, he added, also targets feeder piers within the lake to allow smaller boats to dock to ease pressure on the Port of Kisumu.
He pointed out Asembo, Homa Bay, Kendu Bay, Muhuru Bay, Kowuor Bay, Karungu Bay, Kisumu Bay, Mbita Bay, Mfangano Bay and Port Florence in Busia as among the piers to be upgraded.
The piers, which were the center of maritime transport in the lake in the 1980s are in a sorry state and have since been destroyed by swelling waters of the lake.
Raila said the developments would reposition Kisumu as the commercial hub of East Africa at the same time create job opportunities for the locals.
The national government, he said, was determined to revive maritime trade in the lake which collapsed in 1990, adding that once the refurbishment of Nakuru-Kisumu Meter Gauge Railway line is completed, the port would become a beehive of activities.
“This railway line is also going to revive small towns that have collapsed to enable our people to trade,” he said.
Kisumu County Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o said the developments were as a result of the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
Kisumu, he said, has witnessed tremendous growth following the two leaders working together adding that the revival of the port would create job opportunities for the youth in the area.
Suna East Member of Parliament (MP) Junet Mohammed lashed out at the opponents of the handshake saying they were blinded by cheap politics to see the kind of development going on in the country.
In what appeared to be an attack on Deputy President William Ruto, the MP said those opposed to the handshake were in government but had failed in fulfilling their promises to the electorate thus using the handshake as a scapegoat.
“When somebody says that the handshake has interfered with rolling out of development projects and here we are witnessing this big development, it makes me wonder,” he said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the port alongside Uhuru Business Park, Kisumu-Nakuru refurbished Meter Gauge Railway line and Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium which are his key flagship projects in the area during his second term.
By Chris Mahandara