Workers work at the T-beam factory on section six of Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway project, near Makueni, Kenya, on March 16, 2015. The project, expected to cost 3.8 billion U.S. dollars, involves the construction of about 480 kilometer railway line from the port city Mombasa to the capital city Nairobi. China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) is undertaking the project. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
Workers work at the T-beam factory on section six of Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway project, near Makueni, Kenya, on March 16, 2015. The project, expected to cost 3.8 billion U.S. dollars, involves the construction of about 480 kilometer railway line from the port city Mombasa to the capital city Nairobi. China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) is undertaking the project. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)

The water in River Nzoia in Budalangi, western Kenya, flowed with vengeance on Wednesday, sweeping along anything on its path.

It has been raining heavily in western Kenya and other parts of the country, with most of the rainwater in the region ending up in River Nzoia, which drains into Lake Victoria.

The river is currently swollen with water and residents fear that it may burst and displace people if the rains continue pounding with rage.

But even as the fear lingers on, transport activities in the area have not been disrupted, thanks to Sigiri Bridge constructed by a Chinese firm.

Built by the China Overseas Engineering Group, the 992 million shillings (97.2 million U.S. dollars) bridge was officially launched in 2018.

The bridge has wiped out previous years’ rain season transport misery for thousands of residents, who are now crossing from one side to the other without fear despite the swollen river.

In the past, transport would have been halted until the rains subsided since residents relied on boats to cross the about 500-metre wide river. Those who dared to cross during such times risked death – and some did die.

“If it were not for the Chinese contractor, we would be crossing this river as the intensity of the rains grows,” said Robert Bwire, a motorbike taxi operator.

“However much the rains fall, transport cannot be affected now because the bridge is high enough,” he added.

Before the bridge was built, recalled Bwire, who has been in the business for over five years, he would ferry customers to one side of the river and leave them to cross by boat when it was not swollen.

“But if it was full as it is currently, many would end their journeys at the river and return home. You could see the misery on their faces because of missed opportunities,” he said.

Others would choose to take a 40 km trip to reach the opposite side.

The motorbike taxi operator is among hundreds of transporters who use the bridge daily, ferrying people from south to north parts of Budalangi.

“I am supposed to attend a relative’s funeral in the south on Saturday and I am not worried about crossing the river because of the bridge,” said John Ouma, who lives in the north.

Businesses are flourishing on both sides of the bridge, with resorts and hotels among the latest establishments in the area thanks to the good transport network.

Sand harvesters are also recording booming trade as real estate starts to roar in the area, ferrying sand with ease from one side of the river to the other.

A seven-tonne lorry of sand is going for 70 dollars from 40 dollars, with demand surging as people transit from grass and mud houses to stone houses.

“We don’t have to struggle to take the sand far away so that lorry drivers can access it. The lorry now come closer to where we are because of the bridge,” said Stephen Ajwang, a sand harvester.

Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, said good transport network is important for the economic lifeline of any region.

“Without such infrastructure, some people may grow in an area without travelling because of associated risks. Business is also stifled and economic activities curtailed,” he said. Enditem

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