Experts want government to close Narok Highway due to cracks

A crack along the Narok Highway. []

Experts have called on the government to shut down the Narok-Mai-Mahiu road and immediately stop any development projects in the South Rift.

This, they say, will prevent loss of life.

Scientists from the University of Nairobi (UoN) and the Institute for Meteorological Training and Research said the region has an active but hidden potent activity which has been revealed by presence of cracks in Rift Valley.

“The Narok-Longonot-Naivasha-Elementaita-Nakuru-Magadi area of the Rift Valley is very unstable. This is the reason we see Mt Longonot releasing fumes and Lake Magadi experiencing 300 earthquakes in a year. When we see cracks occurring, we should be worried,” said Prof Eric Odada, the head of UoN’s African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Science according to the Standard.

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Cracks were first seen at Suswa on March 13. Transport was temporarily cut off along the busy Narok-Mai-Mahiu highway.

The crack, by last week, had extended to Moi Ndabi area of Naivasha cutting off transport in the area and swallowing crops and farms.

Prof Odada said the Rift Valley being the largest opening in the world, there is a lot of tectonic and seismic movements which is a ticking time bomb.

“Lakes Nakuru, Naivasha, and Elementaita were one big lake, with the deepest part being at Kariandusi. They separated because of volcanic activities like the ones we are witnessing at Suswa.

“The crack can be as deep as five kilometres. Or when the Rift Valley moves up, it creates ridges like the Kabete ridge in Kiambu. When this happens, it can cause a major collapse of land or opening of a craven and sink villages in a few minutes.”

The scientist said government should halt any development in the area.

He added that back in the colonial era, the British did not undertake any major infrastructural project in the region because of the volcanic action.

“This matter should be taken seriously. I shudder when I see vehicles still being allowed to use the Nairobi-Narok road. Even the Maai Mahiu road should be closed and people moved to safer areas,” sai Prof Odada.

“The British knew the dangers of such developments and used the more stable road from Nairobi through Nakuru to Kericho. The massive infrastructure we are seeing in this area where land is being excavated poses more risks.”

George Krhoda, a professor of geography and environmental studies at UON said the cracks seen in the Rift Valley are worrisome.

“The Rift Valley has many cracks filled with volcanic ash… these cracks should worry us,” said Khorda as further quoted by the Standard.

Professor of geology at UON, Onyango Ogembo urged government to enlist the input of professionals while designing projects in the area.

The state however, differed with the experts saying the cracks have been caused by floods and not tectonic movements.

Mining Principal Secretary John Omenge lashed out at geologists saying they are fanning fear with their theory which is baseless.

“”We shall empower the Geologists Registration Board, which is headed by a director in the ministry, to come up with a data base of all qualified geologists in the country,” said the PS.