Local resistance to the proposed location of the Isiolo resort city is gaining traction, with a section of elders and civil society organisations lobbying residents to push for a change of site.
The group, that also opposes construction of the Sh20 billion mega dam located at Crocodile Jaw on the Isiolo-Laikipia border, has asked the national government through the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) to relocate the proposed resort city to Kula Mawe area in Isiolo South Constituency.
They said that the LCDA is yet to communicate on the actual site of the multibillion shilling resort city after they requested for its relocation.
Led by Waso Trust Land CEO Liban Golicha, the group asked the government to shift the mega project from Kipsing Gap in Isiolo North Constituency to Kula Mawe near Garbatulla in Isiolo South, saying it will interfere with existing wildlife sanctuaries and affect tourism, which is a major source of revenue for the county.
The previous county administration had also proposed that the Vision 2030 project be moved to Kula Mawe owing to its deleterious impact on the environment. The county committed to providing alternative land for the relocation.
A section of county assembly members and former ward reps, both from the first and second houses in Isiolo, have also been pushing the LCDA to respond to the relocation request.
The Isiolo resort city will sit on 10,000 acres of land.
“The proposed site is near a wildlife corridor and game sanctuaries. Its proximity to national reserves, including Shaba and Buffalo Springs, poses a risk to the animals and rare species, together with their migratory routes,” said Mr Golicha.
The national government has proposed to set up three resort cities in Isiolo, Lamu and Turkana with an aim of spurring economic growth and boosting the tourism industry.
Former Cherab MCA Hassan Kumpa said that, while the dam is earmarked to supply water to the proposed resort city, it will greatly interfere with the flow of water at the Ewaso Ng’iro River downstream, affecting thousands of pastoralists.
Going by the initial feasibility study, Kipsing Gap, Archers Post and Kula Mawe had been ranked in that order based on their suitability to host the resort city.
All the three areas were evaluated as possible sites, but the nine-month study by a Japanese consultant identified Kipsing Gap as the most suitable site due to its proximity to major tourist attractions.
The two other sites were found to be less impressive due to a lack of water, sewerage systems, natural diversity and insecurity, among other reasons.
Kipsing Gap, which borders Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ewaso Ng’iro River to the east and west, respectively, is about 30km from Isiolo town. It was selected due to its beautiful, arid scenery and its proximity to major tourist attractions.
It is anticipated to have crafted museums, high-end tourism facilities, financial institutions, hotels, theatres, casinos, sports facilities and art exhibitions. These are poised to open up the region to more investments.
Apart from the resort city, Isiolo is home to mega-infrastructural projects including Isiolo International Airport and an abattoir. It is expected to host oil refineries and form part of the Lapsset corridor.
The Lapsset Corridor programme is eastern Africa’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project involving Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.