The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has greatly disrupted the old order since its launch some two years ago. Travelers to and from the Coast now have an option over and above the expensive flights and the bumpy roads. They can sit and relax in the Madaraka Express and slide to either Nairobi or Mombasa in a comfortable four hours, a bit slower than a flight and a bit faster than the usual bus. But cheaper than both!
Of course it has not been all bliss for all people. Nothing ever is. We have seen people associated with long distance cargo transport merchants hold demonstrations citing loss of business, a few towns along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway are now witnessing less activity and public service vehicles are being forced to innovate to attract passengers.
That is the nature of novelty; it is the price that must be paid for a society to progress. Like all good projects, the SGR was meant to push away the not-so-good old order.
The process of introducing something new is always met with resistance, always painful to some, most of the time very expensive in the short term. But, eventually, the projected benefits come to pass. The benefits of the SGR will surely come to pass sooner than later.
One thing that is undeniably regrettable is the apparent loss of jobs and livelihoods for, especially, the residents of the Coast region whose majority have been affected by the reduced activity at the Port of Mombasa due to the tendency of many importers preferring the SGR and the newly introduced Internal Container Depot in Nairobi.
But there is brighter light at the end of the tunnel for the Coast people.
In another few months, there will be some 60,000 new jobs for the people of Mombasa, thanks to the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
You see, the government, for once, seems to have planned well for the disruption. Statistically, the SGR might lead to loss of about 7000 jobs in the short term, only in the short term because in the fullness of time the jobs will be restored and even more created directly consequential to what will accrue with the improved efficiency that it promises.
But Dongo Kundu will give us ten-fold what we lost with SGR.
Just last month, the government signed the final agreement with Japan for the construction of the life changing project. The Asian country is giving Kenya some Sh41.07 billion to build the industrial and commercial hub in Dongo Kundu. This will definitely more than compensate for the lost port business.
The signing of the deal is good news for the port town that has been recording dwindling fortunes.
It is projected that by mid-next year every preparatory logistics would have been completed and groundbreaking done. The first phase of the historical project is expected to be ready for use by June 2022.
The Dongo Kundu SEZ industrial and commercial hub, expected to sit on 1,326 hectares, is part of the master plan for the development of the Mombasa SEZ that was conceived four years ago with Japanese help.
According to acting Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani, the project will cost over Sh82 billion. It will not only provide jobs but commuting between the South and North Coast will be much smoother and safer. Already, the first phase of the Dongo Kundu bypass is complete and is being used by motorists and reports are traffic has greatly eased.
While opening the road mid last year, President Uhuru noted that it’s designed with provisions to integrate seamlessly with the port of Mombasa, the Moi International Airport, the Standard Gauge Railway, the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway, and the upcoming Mombasa Northern Bypass.
Construction of the 11-kilometre bypass between Mombasa Port and Miritini was launched in July 2016 with a construction timeline of 36 months and a budget of Sh11 billion.
The road runs from Mombasa Port’s second container terminal and joins the Mombasa-Nairobi highway at Bonje, near Mazeras.
The project was undertaken by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
The Dongo Kundu Bypass, also known as the Southern Bypass, was proposed 30 years ago as a means to decongest Mombasa by providing an alternative to the Likoni ferry through linking the mainland with the south coast.
Phase two the Dongo Kundu Bypass consists of an 8.9-kilometre road between Mwache Junction and Mteza, while the third and final phase involves construction of a 6.9-kilometre road from Mteza and Kibundani – linking the highway to the Likoni-Lunga Lunga road.
The project will involve construction of an interchange at the Likoni-Lunga Lunga road and installation of two bridges: one at Mwache – spanning 900 metres, and a second one at Mteza straddling 1.4 kilometres.
And that is why critics of the SGR and other Government projects should always look at the whole picture before casting aspersions. Their noises may make well-meaning partners start dragging their feet, at our collective expense.
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