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Uhuru’s plan towards traffic-free, healthy city

Mercy Mwai @wangumarci

President Uhuru Kenyatta has unveiled an ambitious plan to transform Nairobi into a functional, modern metropolis. In a move aimed at making Nairobi a tourist and investment destination of international repute, the Head of State outlined the major projects city residents should expect in the near future.

State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu yesterday said top on the list of the initiatives is ending perennial traffic jams synonymous with the capital. He revealed that in some areas, including Westlands and the central business district (CBD) private cars would not be allowed on designated days.

“Traffic can be a nightmare in the city. Full car-free days for Westlands and the Central Business District, a traffic management committee, the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system should all be in place, as well as the automation of bus termini and improvement of non-motorised travel,” said Esipisu, adding that the initiative is being spearheaded by a joint team of the National and County governments and is co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala.

He also announced the acquisition of an extra 39 National Youth Service (NYS) buses that will use the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lanes aimed at reducing traffic. The lanes have already been marked in major roads in the city.

“The team will be communicating the bus pick up points that will be set up so that those who use private means can take the buses on this designated areas. The whole idea of this is to ease traffic,” said the spokesman.

Also in the pipeline is the facelift of the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), garbage collection in all the 17 constituencies and construction of low-cost housing units which are part of the President’s Big Four agenda.

Esipisu said the new changes come after Uhuru met with Nairobi regeneration team led by Sonko and Balala. The President was categorical if those tasked to implement the projects fail, they will be forced to resign from their positions.

Collection of garbage in all the 85 wards in Nairobi, Esipisu said, will take place over the next one month in all the 85 as well as a cleanup of Nairobi River. On affordable housing, Esipisu said Nairobi alone is projected to provide 200,000 new affordable homes.

The low cost project targets 5,000 houses in Shauri Moyo, 20,000 houses in Makongeni, 3,000 houses in Starehe and 2,000 units in Park Road estates.

Construction of the Shauri Moyo, Makongeni and Starehe houses will kick off within six months while the ground breaking for the 2,000 units of affordable housing on Park Road will be within three months. In the ambitious plan, Uhuru wants KNH to purely deal with referral cases to lessen pressure at the facility.

Mbagathi, Mama Lucy and Pumwani hospitals will be equipped with high-volume health centres and improved trauma services. Esipisu revealed that the President visited KNH hospital incognito last week.

“He wants pressure eased off KNH to enable it concentrate on referral cases only,” he said, adding: “When he visited the hospital, the President found out that most of the pressure is related to accidents and emergency service and this is what he wants addressed.”

On universal health coverage, the counties of Kisumu, Machakos, Isiolo and Nyeri have been identified for a 100 per cent pilot on the same. “The other 43 counties will also run pilots but they are limiting this to 10,000 citizens per county,” said Esipisu.

Meanwhile, Uhuru today leaves the country for a one-week official visit to the United Kingdom to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. He is scheduled to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on strengthening bilateral ties and trade between the two nations.

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