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Gov’t committed to end perennial floods in Athi River

The government is committed to putting an end to the perennial stormy water floods normally experienced in Gimu and Lukenya areas of Athi river area, Mavoko Sub-county of Machakos.

This follows numerous complaints from the area residents’ association leaders led by Athi Highway Estate Association leader Mr. Joshua Muthoka who have on several occasions written to various government stakeholders calling on them to re-direct the floodwaters emanating from the Athi river-Machakos junction dual carriageway, which is under construction.

Speaking during a special County Development, Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC) meeting held at the Athi River Deputy County Commissioner’s (DCC) office boardroom, Machakos County Commissioner John Ondego said that a special committee ought to be formed to look into the matter and offer a lasting solution.

“The Athi river-Machakos junction dual carriageway is a main road project, which is very vital for the people as it connects the counties as well as the international community. We need a lasting solution on the construction of a storm water drain, which will help save residents loss of lives and property,” said Mr. Odengo.

“I call upon the Water Resources Authority (WRA) and the Athi River DCC to spearhead the formation of a small committee comprising of representatives from the Kenya National Highway Authority, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, the Machakos  County Planner and Surveyor, the security team, the residents and any other stakeholders,” added Mr. Odengo.

The CC directed the committee to visit the affected area and identify any developers who may have encroached on the natural waterway in addition and offer recommendations on the way forward within a week’s time.

He further added that development ought not to bring pain to the people hence the residents ought to be involved on any major developments and have a right to have a map of any proposed construction of a storm water canal or drainage system in their area.

Speaking during the meeting, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) County Director Ms. Sophie Mutemi said that the matter has been a back-and-forth affair hence a lasting solution ought to be reached as soon as possible.

Ms. Mutemi said that NEMA visited the affected areas and analysed all environmental issues adding that KenHA ought to take responsibility for any developers encroaching on riparian land in the area.

“Temporary measures will not do the public any justice. We ought to ensure that all natural waterways are clear and that public land is utilized only for public use. To achieve this, all mitigation measures ought to be managed by the right government authorities like KeNHA,” said Ms. Mutemi.

Machakos County Executive in-Charge of Infrastructure and Public Works Ms. Naomi Mutie said that she received the residents’ complaints and a meeting was convened on March 24 this year to deliberate on the matter.

Ms. Mutie pointed that some residents were against the construction of the canal, which was at 50 per cent completion but had been halted adding that the law does not allow the erection of permanent works on a natural watercourse.

She however attributed the storm waters to the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway‘s drainage system which is believed to bring a lot of water downstream.

Also in attendance was the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) Assistant Director Ms. Georgina Njoroge who called on all stakeholders to speak to one another in a concerted effort to arrive at an amicable solution to the problem.

Others in attendance comprised the Athi River DCC Charles Wambugu, KeNHA Senior Engineer Eunice Kiambi among other representatives from WRA and other senior county and national Government officials who later visited the affected areas and the section on which the canal is being constructed.

The affected estates comprise Athi-River highway, Lukenya hills, Paradise Park estate and Lukenya hills developer under the auspices of Grievances road committee.

A section of the major highway between Athi River and Machakos turn-off is being converted to a dual carriageway at a cost of Sh5.3 billion.

According to the KeNHA website, the expansion of the 20-kilometre stretch, which is notorious for heavy traffic snarl-ups, is at an advanced stage with over 50 per cent of the civil works done, but behind schedule as it was to be completed in December 2018 but was delayed due to land compensation issues.

To ease the traffic congestion along the section, engineers have designed and are constructing two underpasses to remove any bottlenecks that are usually a significant cause of traffic jams.

According to the design plans, one underpass is located at the Athi River junction and the other one at the Green Park Estate. An overpass is also set to be built at the Daystar University junction, which will make the turn-offs safer in an area that is a notorious blackspot.

The dual carriage is also expected to play a key role in the Nairobi-Mombasa expressway masterplan and is one of the costliest infrastructure projects, designed to have 4 lanes and 19 interchanges and is expected to become a toll road.

The expressway is also expected to serve Konza City with the construction of the Ewaso Kedong-Kona Baridi-Isinya-Konza section currently listed under the planned projects.

By Rachael Kilonzo

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