Residents of Kinangop Sub County have condemned the halting of the construction of Maumau road, through Aberdare forest, following disagreements over felling of trees.
The residents, most of whom rely on the forest for farming and grazing their cattle, blamed the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) for halting the tarmacking of the 68km, Kinyona- Gatura- Njambini stretch through the forest, saying it was meant to open up the area for trade.
The KFS officers on Friday arrested officers drawn from the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), for cutting down trees, to pave way for the construction of the road, meant to ease access to Murang’a, Nyeri and Kiambu counties.
“We have longed for this road as it was promised to us by the former President Mwai Kibaki and now President Uhuru Kenyatta has actualized it. Our produce is at risk of rotting on the farm as we cannot afford to transport them on time to the roads, unless by use of motorcycles,” remarked Samuel Waweru, who farms in the forest under the Shamba System.
“We will travel about 25km to Thika Town and 40km to Nairobi to take our cabbages, carrots, potatoes and snow peas to markets before the vehicles travel back for other consignments,” Waweru said.
In a tour of the forest, meant to draw a consensus between the two government Agencies, Nyandarua County Commissioner Benson Leparmorijo directed the contractor to proceed with the already cleared section, allowing for consultations on clearing the rest of the 6.5km.
“The president directed that this road be gazzetted as a Class B (B20) road paving way for its upgrade from gravel to tarmac. As a presidential directive, we are obligated to ensure it is completed on time, as it was the wish of residents of Nyandarua and Murang’a Counties.
“We are giving the project a ‘one nation’ approach despite the long bureaucracies that we have to go through to get approvals for clearing the forest area that will be affected,” added Leparmorijo.
The 68km dilapidated murram road snaking into the thick forest full of red cedars, cypress and pines that have endured the test of time, will be expanded to 30metres wide and tarmacked at a cost of Sh.3.8 billion by 2023.
The KFS team, led by County Ecosystem Conservator David Muigai, regretted the manner in which the trees were uprooted and roughed up by the earth movers used to clear the section.
“The department is under a moratorium not to cut and dispose any trees and with this, we cannot condone the clearing of this section, given that we are also struggling to have the country attain the 10 percent tree cover,” cried Muigai.
KeNHA’s Adams Mureithi decried the sluggish progress on the road, saying the ongoing rains only allowed for clearing and a bit of earthworks.
“The contractor needs possession of the site to continue, failure to which he will retreat and demand compensation for the lost time. Already about 14km from Murang’a has been cleared and the 12km into Nyandarua has been halted following the harassment of the workers,” regretted Mureithi.