Thika Town is one of the oldest towns in Kenya established officially by British settlers. Towards the end of the 19th century, foreigners began to settle in the area as a suitable resting spot between Nairobi and the upcountry highlands. Europeans and Asians began to stop and remain at Thika; the Europeans setting up farms, and the latter setting up shops. In the early 1900s, a monument in the shape of a pillar was erected by the British in the central business district commemorating the founding of Thika as a town. It was given its status by the government gazette in 1924. Thereafter it was elevated to a municipality when Kenya gained independence in 1963, and the first Mayor was enthroned in 1968.
For a long time, Thika has remained a slow moving industrial and business hub growing steadily with time. However, with the recent development of Nairobi metropolis, and the huge Nairobi-Thika highway development project, Thika town has faced a sudden boom in on all sectors of growth. This has led to its sudden expansion spatially, economically and with a more diverse social setup. With this growth, the challenges facing Nairobi, the Municipal Council of Thika thought it wise to develop a Zonal policy to guide and control development. The Thika Zonal plan, in a nutshell, is a framework to guide development in Thika and curb the challenges that are facing its neighbour, Nairobi.
From the onset, the plan attracted the interest of various groups. Realizing that by itself the council did not have the capacity to develop this Zonal plan, it decided to call on various groups to partner with them in this project. Among those involved are: Municipal Council of Thika, University of Nairobi, NEMA, DDO, DAO Office, DPPO, THIWASCO (Thika Water & Sewerage company) among others. Mr. Kibinda, the director of Metropolitan planning and development, in a meeting with the various stakeholders reported that the World Bank and the Kenyan Government had signed a deal of over Kshs30bn for NAMSIP (Nairobi Metropolitan Infrastructure Project) in which the focus is on 13 urban centres of which detailed plans for Thika, Juja and Ruiru are included.
The challenges facing Thika at the moment fundamentally boil down to a rapid spatial and economic growth with a lack of proper guidelines and development control framework. The hope is that with a comprehensive and competently done Zonal plan, all developments in the region henceforth are to be planned for to avoid overlapping and negative socio-economic impacts that may potentially arise.
A second objective is to make sure that all new developments in Thika meet environmental standards as set by NEMA. Among the points to look at are the huge changes in land use, changes of densities caused by a rise in immigration into Thika and the regulatory measures and requirements for such changes as well as control of agriculture in the region.
Thirdly, to create regulations which developers have to follow before embarking on any projects dealing with infrastructure and service provision. Transport facilities, educational facilities etc. are a key focus in areas of the Zonal plan.
Currently, Mr. Mwaura the lead Physical Planner of the project in liaison with Mr. Mutegi the Thika Municipality Physical planner and Professor Ngau the director of Urban Innovations Project, DURP, UON have put all the required teams together and provided work groups for carrying out the various jobs to be done for the project.
Prepared by Judy Achieng’
and James Wanyoike