Billionaires in major push for revival of Nakuru airport project

The Nakuru airport
The Nakuru airport is expected to serve one million travellers annually. PHOTO/FILE
A group of wealthy investors in Nakuru have launched a petition urging governor Lee Kinyanjui to help revive plans for construction of a multi-billion shilling airport in the county.

The business magnates, who hold major interests in horticulture and tourism sectors, have lamented that the delay in implementing the project has been a major drag on the county’s economic growth.

Led by their spokesman, Shadrack Koskei, the investors have urged Mr Kinyanjui to liaise with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) – which is mandated to set up airport infrastructure and the aviation regulator, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), to revive the Nakuru airport project.

“Flower farmers in Naivasha will have a chance exploit the huge market by increasing their exports to Europe and the United States. The airport will also make it easier for the county to receive hordes of international tourists,” Mr Koskei said in a press interview.

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Observers say that although this is a noble initiative, it will be difficult to revive the project that stalled in 2014 after the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) declined to approve it on grounds that the site lays on a flamingo migratory route.

The project, whose groundbreaking was scheduled for 2014, was to be located on a 642 acres in the Pipeline area – about 15km from Nakuru town on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. The county had proposed two other sites: Naivasha and Njoro. The latter was rejected due to poor terrain.

In July 2014, KAA announced that its engineers and those from KCAA were surveying the Naivasha site and that they would communicate their findings once the process is completed.

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The Construction Business Review understands that local politics are frustrating the project, with a section of leaders pushing for the facility to be built on a 700-acre farm in Rongai.

“We should not jeopardise our main symbol of tourism [flamingos]. Let them build the airport in Rongai,” said a ward representative who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Nakuru is a major horticultural hub, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the country’s flower exports. The county is also a premier tourist destination with scenic attractions such as the Menengai Crater, Hells Gate National Park and the Lake Nakuru National Park.