Business

Long wait for road to unlock Lake Victoria bays and beaches

Long wait for road to unlock Lake Victoria bays and beaches

When plans for the Sh70 billion Lake Victoria Ring Road were mooted more than five years ago, hopes were high that it would replicate major highways along coastlines in colourful parts of the world, and help unlock the shipping potential of regions along the lake shore.

The Ring Road was meant to traverse the entire six per cent portion of the lake in Kenya. It was expected to run from Bumala at the Busia border with Uganda, to Muhuru Bay at the border with Tanzania.

Now, however, the wait is still on for start of construction of the 470-kilometer road, even as counties bordering the lake initiate moves to reclaim some of the pieces of land grabbed along it.

Shipping and Logistics has established that Kenya is fast-tracking the project and hopes to use it as one of the focal infrastructures to breathe life into the blue economy.

An interview with a senior official at Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) confirmed that the plans were still on albeit delays. The National Land Commission (NLC) is also fast-tracking the project.

According to the KeNHA official, however, the complex nature of the project, as well as delays in funding, has affected its implementation.

“The road will be a vital component in promoting tourism and better logistics,” said the official. It remains to be seen how soon the project will kick off amid land compensation squabbles. 

Fishermen remain optimistic that the project will come to life after several years of waiting. The political class has also been lobbying for the project.

Should it become a reality, it will be a major breakthrough in opening up several beaches and bays that have been secluded as a result of a poor road network.

But with the project being more than five years late, questions remain whether it will become a reality. A source privy to the developments said NLC is yet to process the parcels that are likely to be affected.

The commission was expected to undertake a survey on families that will be affected by the road to pave way for compensation as well as identify public land grabbed by investors.

In Kisumu, however, the county administration has mapped out all the plots along the lake, including those grabbed by private investors.

A report seen by Shipping and Logistics yesterday indicates that some of the parcels that have been grabbed along the shores of the lake have permanent structures.

Yesterday, Beach Management Unit officials said they had submitted a proposal to President Uhuru Kenyatta to fast-track the project.

Tom Guda, the national BMU chairperson, said they had been eagerly awaiting the start of the project to open more shipping and logistics opportunities to beaches and landing sites.

“The project will open the lake front. It will also spur investments in eco-tourism and transport,” said Mr Guda. The road will pass through Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Migori and Homa Bay.