By Anne Chebet
Bungoma County’s aggressive push for urbanization was this week given a shot in the arm with Sh1 billion grant to upgrade infrastructure within Bungoma Municipality and decongest the Central Business District.
The Sustainable Urban Economic Development (SUED) grant follows a winning proposal on Bungoma County’s demonstrated desire to improve its urban infrastructure as part of its plans to attract critical investments, opening up farms to markets and kick-starting high potential value chain projects.
Managed through the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), SUED is a £60 million five-year programme that will support up to 12 fast growing municipalities in Kenya to plan their urbanization better, improve links with larger markets that were previously inaccessible and prepare for climate-resilient and sustainable growth.
The county will receive expert advice in urban planning, training on urban management, investment promotions as well as cashing the Sh1 billion seed capital to fund infrastructure development and value chain projects.
Governor Wycliffe Wangamati said part of the money will go towards de-congesting the town and easing movement within the Central Business District.
“With the funding, we will build a state-of-the-art market cum Bus Park in Bungoma,” Governor Wangamati said upon receiving news that Bungoma Municipality had made into the top 12 winning municipalities in the Country.
He thanked the UK, saying the seed grant comes in handy to boost infrastructure and train personnel on the best practices of urban management as Bungoma thinks up ways of applying for city status.
Governor Wangamati has been in the recent past been pushing for creation of more municipalities and expanding boundaries of existing municipalities to cover more wards.
In March this year, the Bungoma Governor wrote a letter to Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, requesting for the delineation of boundaries of four urban centres in the County in a process that would see Webuye and Chwele Towns become municipalities and boundaries of the already established Bungoma and Kimilili Municipalities expanded to cover more wards.
In the letter, Governor Wangamati proposed to spin off two more municipalities; Webuye and Chwele and expand Bungoma Municipality to cover Musikoma, Kabula, Tuuti Marakaru, Bukembe West, Sang’alo West, South Bukusu and West Bukusu. Currently, Bungoma Municipality only covers Township and Khalaba Wards.
The committee will also look into the possibility of expanding Kimilili Municipality boundaries to cover Kibingei, Maeni and Kamukuywa Wards besides Kimilili ward.
Effectively, the Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works Hon James Macharia on Friday (today) gazetted a nine-member ad-hoc committee to oversee the delineation of boundaries of the four urban centres.
The nine are Mathew Thiga from IEBC as Chair, Thomas O. Ogutu of State Department for Housing and Urban Development as Secretary and members Geoffrey P. Kituyi from State Department of Agriculture, Dr Lucy W. Nganga from State Department of Environment and Boniface Wanyama from Kenya Institute of Planners.
Others are Alfred Eshitiera from Institute of Surveyors, Wellington B. Sindani from Department of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning (Bungoma County) and Onesmus Makhanu from Department of Agriculture (Bungoma County).
Governor Wangamati says as a result of the expanded boundaries, Bungoma County will receive more donor funding to develop its infrastructure in municipalities on the strength of its increasing urban population.
“With our municipalities covering more wards, we can allocate some of the funding County to improve infrastructure in satellite wards like Kabula, Musikoma among others within the Municipality,” he said, adding that his Government will continue engaging donor funding and entities keen on urban infrastructure and linking the same to rural livelihoods.
Already, the first term Governor has kicked off massive projects to upgrade several earth roads in Kimilili and Bungoma Municipalities to bitumen standards under the World Bank-funded Kenya Urban Support Program (KUSP).
Between them, Kimilili Municipality bagged Sh190 million while Bungoma Municipality bagged Sh110 million to go towards upgrading infrastructure in the two municipalities including improving markets, roads, lighting, drainage and health centres within the two areas.