Lanet airstrip set for conversion into airport

Sunday December 24 2017

NAKURU AIRPORT

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui (in grey coat) and some military officials tour Lanet airstrip on December 2017. The airstrip will be upgraded to an airport. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ERIC MATARA
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The long-awaited Nakuru airport will now be situated near the Lanet military base.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui on Sunday said the Lanet airstrip that has been serving the military will be expanded to become an international public utility to be used by civilian aircraft.

“After a meeting attended by teams from the Kenya Defence Forces, the Ministry of Transport, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), the Kenya Airports Authority and the county, it has been agreed that the airstrip be upgraded to accommodate the public,” Mr Kinyanjui said.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Governor Kinyanjui added that during the meeting, held at the weekend, it was agreed that the airstrip be improved to accommodate big passenger and cargo aeroplanes.

The county boss said the move will eventually enable flights to flourish and connect Nakuru to East Africa and the rest of the world.

He said there are plans to seek the public’s views on the project from January 1.

“A report on the airport designs and the cost for the expansion project will be available in the first week of January,” Mr Kinyanjui added.

The Lanet airstrip is 1.7 kilometres long and nearly 20 metres wide.

ECONOMY
The idea to construct an airport in Nakuru was first conceived in 2004 but has not been realised more than 10 years later.

Governor Kinyanjui said Nakuru, a tourism and horticultural hub, was lagging behind due to lack of an airport.

“Flower farmers in Naivasha will have a chance to exploit the huge market available 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 Kinyanjui said.

He went on: "We need an alternative route for flights diverted from Nairobi.”

HORTICULTURE
During emergencies, flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi are redirected to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret, which are far.

In the past, investors pushed for the construction of the airport, saying it would boost flower exports and tourism in the region.

Currently, flower firms rely on refrigerated trucks to ferry produce to JKIA, more than 100 kilometres away, for export.

Nakuru County is well known for the production of close to 70 per cent of Kenya’s flower exports, as well as tourism.

Popular tourism sites include Lake Nakuru National Park, Hells Gate National Park, Lake Naivasha, Menengai Crater and Lord Egerton Castle.

CONSTRUCTION
In 2011, a 600-acre piece of land in Pipeline was acquired for the planned construction.

Some Sh250 million was allocated by the government for the preparatory work of the construction in the 2011/2012 fiscal year.

KCAA’s plans to build the airport on a 600-acre piece of land at Pipeline were abandoned after the National Environment Management Authority declined to approve the project on grounds that the site lay on a flamingo migratory route.

Since then, the project has never taken off. The airport will serve about one million travellers