Friday, 30 November 2012

Nairobi elevated Road: an eyesore - architect

The Nairobi elevated road:facing intense criticism
 A MONTH BACK, we ran an article questioning the viability of the elevated road over Nairobi's uhuru Highway.

 We have come across an article providing compelling aesthestic reasons for discarding the project. The article proposes that the funds be used to expand the Southern by-pass to 8 lanes. The article initially written as a letter to the PS ministry of Roads and public works, first appeared on a blog on urban planning in Nairobi from where we lifted it.

I would like to state my strong disapproval of the planned elevated highway over Uhuru Highway.

On the face of it, the elevated highway might look like a very good thing to build. Unfortunately the environmental and social impact assessment study carried out for NUTRIP did not include in the team or consult, architects and town planners. If the study team had included them, they would have told the roads ministry or at least written in their report that the elevated highway at the suggested road section is the worst possible place to build one.

I am appealing to you to reconsider building the elevated highway by considering a shift from infrastructure that enhances “automobility” to infrastructure that enhances public amenities and quality of urban living (“liveability”). Only 25% of Nairobi’s traffic is generated by personal cars. A refocusing of the infrastructure will be a reasonable and an acceptable thing to do for this particular location. As the elevated highway is right next to a park, this makes it even easier to focus on the public amenities.

In most major cities worldwide you would normally not drive straight through the city centre if you are driving from one end of the city to the other. In New York for example, to drive to New Jersey from JFK International Airport, you drive round the city and not straight through Manhattan. It is not impossible but it just takes more time. It is also not possible to drive through the city centre on a major highway in either London, Munich, Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.

In many urban situations, elevated highways become “Chinese Walls” that divide urban communities and create unpleasant and poorly kept environments. An elevated highway creates a virtual barrier which most residents below it will not cross. As a result, city planners avoid them. I have personally experienced the poorly kept environments underneath elevated highways in African cities like Cairo (6th of October Bridge), Luxor and Lagos. Our road planners must be looking at elevated highways in Dubai, China and Malaysia as examples.

 Unfortunately, these Asian examples do not reflect our lifestyle or way of living. The Lagos and Cairo story are a better reflection of our living culture. Using the Asian countries as yardsticks makes my heart bleed for the heart of the city which will be virtually cut off from Uhuru park. As an example of our living culture, I cite the hawkers located in the middle island of the new Thika Superhighway as something that will need to be processed out of Kenyan citizen behaviour. Policing will not stop such behaviour.
Uhuru Park its beauty to be negated by the "chinese wall"

Another effect of elevated highways is that they destroy the neighbourhood or city fabric and cause a decrease in real estate values. This can be clearly witnessed in Boston where the inner core was impacted in the 1950s by a six-lane elevated highway that caused the destruction of neighbourhoods and lowered property values along its path. Please do not compare the effect of Thika Road to surrounding parcels of land to Uhuru highway. When a new highway is built, the initial impact on the land next to the highway is it appreciates in value, especially where there is “nothing” next to it. Build an elevated highway on an existing highway next to established properties and the effect is exactly the opposite. Property values drop considerably to the extent that some buildings get abandoned.

 Did the study team ask the Intercontinental Hotel how they feel about having guests in their swimming pool while cars whiz by on an elevated highway a few metres away? What of the Standard Chartered bank who have just moved away from the CBD to a new Headquarters in Westlands which will now be overlooking an elevated highway? Or the historical Synagogue and the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation about securing their premises now that an elevated highway will be built right next to them?

Another major problem is getting on and off the elevated highway will become unmanageable as more traffic will tend to use the “express way” than drive underneath it. Lagos is famous for such traffic jams. This has led to many cities pulling down the elevated highways. Without question, the boldest and most dramatic elevated highway removal to date has been Seoul, Korea’s Cheong Gye Cheon (CGC) project. The mayor defended the project on the grounds: “we want to make a city where people come first, not cars”.

The dilemma here is that highways are important for economic development of a metropolitan area and the surrounding regions. On the other hand the “liveability” of cities is important to attracting professional-class workers to reside in or close to the city centre. What then can be done to balance the two seemingly opposing views?

A question I ask myself is, why glorify the thoroughfare in Nairobi CBD by building an elevated highway specifically for them? My suggested solution to this issue would be to use the money allocated for the elevated highway to buy land adjoining the Southern Bypass and use it to add lanes to the bypass. There is no reason why the Southern Bypass cannot be a 8 lane highway to be used as the onward route for thoroughfare traffic. This way traffic driving through the city does not need to pass through the CBD thus reducing the amount of traffic on Uhuru Highway by a large number of slow moving trucks.

My prediction for the elevated highway is that once built 25-30 years later, after the loan taken for its construction has been repaid, the elected Nairobi County governor of the time will tear down the elevated highway in a bid to draw back people to the CBD since everyone will have moved to the new TATU and KONZA satellite cities. If Seoul is something to go by, the governor will be celebrated for doing something positive for the city. The fact is, a ground level boulevard is more appealing to the eye.
For other comments on the project please

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tanzania to exploit geothermal power capacity

TANZANIA, EAST AFRICA'S second largest economy,  has turned to geothermal power to meet the increasing demand for power in the country.  Power shortages are a mill on the country economic progress. The country will drill its first geothermal power wells in Mbeya next year.

Ol Karia wells: Africa's leading geothermal wells
The country has the potential to generate some 650 MW of geothermal power.  However, it will start with 200 MW implemented in two phases. The first phase will produce 100 MW or 12.5 per cent of the country’s power output by 2016. The second phase, which starts in 2015, will load another 100 MW to the national grid by 2018.

It costs an estimated US$2 00 million to develop a 100 MW geothermal plant at current prices. Therefore to develop the first 200 MW will cost an estimated US$400 million. This means that for Tanzania to develop its full potential it will require more than US$1.2 billion.

Already she has applied for a total of US$50 million from the AfDB to finance the project. The funds, we have reliably learnt will be approved by February next year.

Tanzania currently produces an estimated 800 MW, way below power demand, which is expected to reach 1 583 MW by 2015. Her major source of power is hydro vulnerable to erratic weather However she is looking at developing a mix of power generation sources. Apart from hydro, and geothermal the country is also looking at producing power from natural gas following big discoveries offshore. Other sources to be developed simultaneous with the geothermal sources are wind and solar sources.

 Tanzania is the second African country to exploit geothermal power after Kenya. Kenya is the giant in Africa in exploiting geothermal power to meet domestic demand. To date she generates more than 150 MW of geothermal power but expects to raise this capacity to more than 1,000 MW by 2016. Kenya estimated potential is 10.000 MW of geothermal power. Sources indicate that there's a  huge undiscovered potential in Tanzania.

Signs that Tanzania was considering exploiting geothermal energy emerged in early September when the Tanzanian Pre3sident, Jakaya Kikwete, visited Kenya and spent time visiting the Ol karia Geothermal wells.
Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the earth’s crust. The energy is manifested on the earth’s surface in the form of fumaroles, hot springs and hot and altered grounds. To extract this energy, wells are drilled to tap steam and water at high temperatures (250-350°C) and pressures (600-1200 PSI) at depths of 1-3 km. For electricity generation, the steam is piped to a turbine, which rotates a generator to produce electrical energy.

Monday, 19 November 2012

East Africa bracing for M&As in oil sector

An oil pipeline: Critical infrastructure in oil marketing
THE FLURRY OF discoveries of hydrocarbons in the eastern Africa coast has changed the game for explorers. It is no longer a juniors market. The countries are no longer pleading with explorers to explore for hydrocarbons in the territory. The existence of viable quantities is a confirmed fact and therefore the rules of engagement are changing.
The discoveries have spawned demand for infrastructure that does not exist in the region. Yet the infrastructure is a necessary component in oil marketing.  We are talking about export terminals, pipelines, marine terminals and offshore mooring facilities. Such investments require deep pockets, a preserve of the seniors in the sector.

In Mozambique, LNG refining and transport infrastructure will require around $20 billion in investment. In Madagascar, reports, the same infrastructure requires US$1.5 billion. South Sudan estimates that  a 2000KM pipeline from its wells to the Lamu Port in Kenya will cost some US$4 billion. Uganda, it is estimated, will invest an estimated US$10 billion on the same infrastructure.

Tanzania will invest some US$1.1 billion to build a gas transportation pipeline from Songo Songo wells to Dar-Es-salaam, the capital city. Kenya on the other hand will invest US$8.1 billion to construct a standard gauge Railway line from the Port of Lamu to Juba in South Sudan.
An offshore Oil rig

However, to the relief of South Sudan and her neighbours Uganda and Kenya, Toyota Tsusho, the investment arm of the Toyota Corporation, has bid US$3 billion to build the Juba-Lamu Port pipeline which could be upgraded to US$5 billion if it is extended to Uganda and Ethiopia. 

These increased demands place the juniors between a rock and a hard place. They do not have the financial muscle to meet these demands and yet they want to benefit from their sweat. Oil juniors, reports the oil intelligence, , are finding difficult meeting   their contractual obligation.

These developments point to only one direction, Mergers and Acquisitions in the sector. The first volley in this direction was shot by Thailand’s PTT E&P. The firm paid some US$1.9 billion to takeover of Cove Energy Plc. PTTE&P had outbid Shell/BP by more than $300 million.  But it is expected that Shell/BP will seek another suitor.

This acquisition gave PTT Exploration and Production exposure to the giant offshore discoveries made in East Africa in the past year. The region is emerging as a future LNG and crude oil giant and is well-situated to export into Asia.

Cove owns an 8.5 percent stake in a Mozambique license in the Rovuma offshore basin containing gas discoveries that could be a major provider of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to energy-starved Asia. She also has a 10 per cent stake in Ruvuma offshore. In Kenya, Cove Energy Plc. has a 10 per cent in offshore area 1.5; 10 per cent in 17; 25 per cent in 1.10A; 15 per cent in1.10B and a 10 per cent in 1.11A.

Apart from demand for infrastructure, governments are looking to gain from their resources thus raising fees. They are also looking to attract the seniors who have the financial muscle to invest in upstream and downstream infrastructure.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Watch out for lavish development projects

Railway Lines substitutes roads transport
CHINA IS FIRMLY ESTABLISHED as a leading development partner for Africa. This development has jolted development partners in the West who are adopting China’s no frills business model, so popular with Africa. 

This competition is opening up the purse strings as never before. Development aid is flowing to Africa in fast and furious manner. This is a good thing. It is also risky and dangerous.  

The danger is; as China takes the front seat in development of Africa, others, especially the West,”will want to catch up.” Herein lies the danger: in a bid to catch some financiers may drop their guard, funding any project that comes their way.  It also some professional excited about availability of funds, could easily come up with grandiose projects.

That Africa needs huge investment in solid infrastructure is not in doubt. The continent needs roads, railway lines, sea ports to open up itself for trade and development. In fact, the short cut to increased and sustainable intra-Africa trade is through transport infrastructure.

But Africa’s agenda must be clearly defined and strictly adhered to avoid wastage.  There should be no “room for catch-up financiers.” Those that feel left out and want to be relevant in Africa.

Development projects are fit in three categories,  either complementary,  vertical progression or substitutes.

Mombasa Southern by pas: Complements Port exapnsion
In vertical progression, the completion of one phase leads to another. For instance, drilling of Ports to deepen them is followed by expansion of the Port’s facilities such as terminal to accommodate increased output. Expansion of airport termini will lead to demand for additional runways, parking lots and taxi-ways.

Complementary projects are projects that support the efficiency of a development project but are not exclusively for use by the previous project. For instance a wider road serving a sea port is complementary in that it eases traffic flow from the Port but it also used by other motorist who perhaps have no business at the Port.  

The Southern by-pass in Mombasa is a complementary project of the Mombasa Port. But the Kipevu link road, which originates from the Port linking it to the by-pass, is a vertical project. The link shall be exclusively used for Port operations. Railway lines linking the Port to the main Kenya-Uganda line are vertical projects. But the main line is a complementary line.

The upgrading of the Lunatic express –the Kenya –Uganda Railway to standard  gauge is substitutive in that it plans  much of freight cargo from the Mombasa Port to in land destination from roads to rail transport. The urban Railways commuters services are  similarly substitutive in that they  will transfer much of passenger traffic from road to rail.

It is on the basis of complementarity and verticality or substitutability that projects should be evaluated. And it is on this basis that questions are being voiced over the the proposed Nairobi 50Km Nairobi double -decker road. There are conflicting reports over where the road begins and where it will end. It is also not clear whether the road is a PPP project or it is a public project.

Initial reports indicated that the viaduct will begin at St. James junction near South C estate. However, other reports indicate it shall be extended to Embakasi Junction, five Kilometres away. Whatever the case, the road is justified on the basis of easing congestion on the Mombasa road/Uhuru highway and the Nairobi CBD.

At this point question arise. The Nairobi southern by-pass already under construction will divert unnecessary traffic from the CBD. It will originate from Mombasa road at the St. James junction and connect Nakuru highway at Rironi in Kiambu County, more than 30 KM away.

In addition, a Railway commuter service is already in advanced stages of development. A contract is out for a construction of a 5KM line and a Railway station at the JKI airport.  The Major link station, the Syokimau Railway station is already complete and is due for commissioning this week. 

  According to Kenya railways Officials, the JKIA- city centre route will be served by two high speed trains each drawing six coaches wagons. Trains have a capacity of carrying 1200 passengers on a  20-minute trip from the Airport to the CBD.

Studies show that, the dominant vehicle mode are cars followed by 14 seater- public service vehicles. These are generally low density vehicles. The studies show that most motorists would leave their cars at home if provided with a reliable and safe mode of transport. A commuter train fits the bill.

The trains will carry 1200 passengers per trip.  This would remove at least 200 vehicles from the road per trip. Since Mombasa road traffic density is just about 3000 vehicles per hour, the commuter train will eliminate about 500 vehicles per hour. Given that the Southern- by pass will divert an estimated 100 vehicles or more per hour, then the double decker road becomes a white elephant.

 It may never reach its design capacity at all. Documents seen by this publication show some doubt regarding the viability of the project. It says that the government will not charge license fees until the project’s IRR has reached 23 per cent.
As Kenya Railways extends commuter services to the southern suburbs of Ngong,  Rongai and adjoin areas. Traffic on Langata road will also ease. The effect will be the same once the services are extended to the Western suburbs of Kikuyu, Westlands and adjoining areas.
Investment in the double decker road beats the  sacrifice logic. While we save and invest so that we can enjoy more and better goods and services in future, the World Bank funded project does not fit the bill. We may be stuck with a US$250 million white elephant in future. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Mombasa's Expansion to Mega Port begins in December

The container terminal at the Mombasa Port 

THE EXPANSION of the Mombasa port into a mega port will begin in December 2012, we have reliably learnt. The expansion brings to a close the Port’s US$ 320 million development project that began last year. 

 The project is funded by the Kenya government jointly with the Japanese International Co-operation Agency,JICA. 

The first phase of the development project included the dredging of the port to a depth of 15 Metres. It also widened the Likoni Channel from 250 Meters to more than 300 meters, while the turning basin was widened to 600 meters. 

This phase cost US$62 million and was completed in 18 months. Its completion enabled the Port to receive the largest sea freighters in the market.

The second phase which involves construction of three berths with a straight-line quay of 900 meters, reclamation of 100 hectares of land, second container terminal with a capacity of one million TEUs, reclamation of 100 acres of land, construction of a 5KM link road to Mombasa southern by-pass and a Railway line.  At the end of the two-years US$200 million project, the Mombasa Port will have a capacity of 1.25 Million TEUs. 

The Mombasa port, which is the hub of shipping business in east and central Africa, has come under intense pressure to expand in the recent past due to robust economic growth in the region and also changes in vessel sizes. 

Robust economic growth both in Kenya and among her landlocked neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan generated increased demand for imports and exports through the port.

This increase in demand has stretched facilities at the port to the snapping point. The container terminal, build in 1980 to handle just 250,000 TEUs a year found itself  handling some 695,000 TEUs in 2010.  That was three times beyond its capacity. This resulted in unwarranted delays in cargo discharge and the associated costs. Being the gateway to east Africa, congestion at the port increased the cost of doing business in the region.

The second   source of pressure for the port was advance in construction of freighters. In order to minimize average costs, shipping Lines were investing in large capacity vessels.  In 1996, says an analysis by the Kenya Ports Authority which is in charge of all ports in Kenya, the largest vessel had a capacity of 4000 TEUs. This grew progressively to 11,000 TEUs in 2011 and is projected to rise to 20,000 TEUs by 2020.
A prototype of Mombasa southern by pass

This growth in large vessels put pressure on major ports in Africa to invest in capacity expansion. The Mombasa Port was no exception. The expansion project that will be completed by the end of 2014 will ensure that Mombasa retains its positions as a mega port in Africa. 

At the moment all- post panamax vessels can easily be accommodated at the port. These are vessels that are up to 350 metres long and have a larger loading capacity.

Apart from building facilities at the port, JICA is also funding  complementary logistical projects around the port. Although they are not part of the port expansion project, they will ensure its efficient operation.

These include the proposed  US$300 million Mombasa southern by pass on the South Coast linking the Nairobi high way at Miritini, 19 KM away.  The Port itself will be linked to the by-pass by the 5-KM Kipevu link road thus transferring the freight trucks to the by-pass and hence decongest the City of Mombasa. Construction of the by-pass is expected to start early next year.

In addition, Kenya is upgrading the 1,300KM lunatic express, the Kenya –Uganda railway to standard gauge with funding from China. The five-year upgrade project will be launched towards the end of this year.

The upgrade will raise train speeds to 120KM per hour for Cargo and 80 Km per hour for passenger trains. The idea is for the railway line to reclaim its past glory when it used to be a transport mode of choice for passengers and freight in the region. Lack of rail transport is a major cause of congestion at the Port of Mombasa.  Please go to.