Residents of Baricho and Lango Baya areas in Kilifi County have expressed hope that the ongoing construction of Baricho Bridge Project across the Galana river will spur economic growth in the area.
The construction of the 241-metre-long bridge started in 2018 and will cost Sh. 2.3 billion.
The bridge is being constructed by MS China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group.
It will connect Magarini and Malindi Sub Counties once complete in April 2022.
Residents expressed optimism that the bridge will alleviate their suffering because they have been using traditional ways to cross the crocodile and hippopotamus infested river and frequent attacks by the wild animals had led to loss of lives.
Mr. Manyeso Kamacha said that ever since the contractor started working on the bridge, cases of people crossing on foot have also gone down since there is a drift that was placed and residents use it to cross under the strict supervision of the contractor to avert any danger.
“Crossing from either Baricho or Lango Baya we pay between Sh. 200 to Sh. 400 which many cannot afford and they risk their lives by crossing on foot,” he said.
He also said that when the river is full or flooded, crocodile numbers also go up and that many people have lost lives.
“The contractors should speed up the work so that we can use the bridge and save our lives from the dangerous river,” he added.
Mrs. Jumwa Charo said that young children are the most frightened when it comes to crossing the river and that parents had lost many children to the crocodiles while many others live with the scars after surviving the attacks.
Mr. Michael Kalu, a local youth employed at the project said that there are visible changes at the moment since people from either side of the river are assisted to cross by the company.
“We have benefitted from jobs at the construction site and when complete the crossing will see traffic increase and shorten the distance from either side,” he said.
Ms. Lina Paula who is the liaison officer between the community and the contractor said that in the past, residents or travellers had to cover long distances to move to either side of the river but the bridge had come in handy to shorten the distance.
“People used to use the Malindi Marafa road to access the Baricho side and that consumed a lot of time and money due to the distance covered but as of now vehicles and people are crossing even before the bridge is complete,” she said.
Engineer Victor Majiwa from the Otieno Odongo and Partners Consulting limited, the supervisor of the work said that the bridge will be important to the local community and beyond.
“It takes a lot of time and money to cross using small boats, the farming industry too will also grow,” he said.
Mr. Mario Fomiga who works with the Chinese company said that the works were at 70 percent and that they were currently fixing the segments at the centre pier which he expects to be complete by December before raising the beams on the other segments.
“We plan to finish the box segments by December and embark on the completion of the approach roads from either side.,” he said.
The manager of the Chinese contractor Mr. Li Jie Yang was confident that the bridge will change the landscape of the area.
“We have trained technicians and other operators,” he said.