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When the rains hit the ground early this morning, so much stuff ran through my mind, especially concerning the state of our road construction works. I wandered around that time when the Chinese were constructing the Thika Super Highway.

When I compare their works to those of the contractors doing Kenyatta Highway, it is a totally different ball game altogether.

 These Chinese firms excelled in the quality of their work and the timely completion of their projects. Noone can really question the quality of their product in the name of Thika Super Highway. The way they  planned their work was awesome. They could divert vehicles whenever they were working out a particular section of the road, just to avoid inconveniencing the road users. 

These Chinese contractors too heavily relied on technology to subsidize cost. They would never compromise on quality through shortcuts just to save a few bucks. For instance, they heavily relied on soil stabilization technology to deliver fast, durable and affordable roads. 

This technology involved the addition of chemicals to on-site materials as a way of improving the weight bearing capabilities of sub-soils, sands, and other waste materials in order to strengthen road surfaces. It mainly relied on large amounts of clay owing to its inherent binding properties. Cement, bitumen, lime, tar emulsions and asphalt can be used as binding agents for producing a road base.

Soil stabilization also creates hydrophobic surfaces that prevent road failure from water penetration or heavy frosts by inhibiting the ingress of water into the treated layer. This produces road surfaces that are much more durable than regular road surfaces. 

To cut a long story short, the workmanship that Chinese companies exhibited is the main reason they are always awarded the main tenders.

Compare that with what we are experiencing on Kenyatta Highway as well as the Non-Motorized footpaths funded by the World Bank. The workmanship is very shoddy. There is poor planning as well as having very dismal time management.

These contractors have no prior plans on how to manage the traffic as they are doing their work. The result of this is too much interference of the users' programme. They inconvenience virtually everyone not to mention the motorists using those parts of the road. 

On time management, the contractors can only get a score of 3 out of 10. They are very poor managers of time. Ten weeks down the line since the work commenced, there is practically nothing to show for. The work is slightly below 30% complete. I happened to observe them work last week and what I discovered was pathetic. These guys are practically buying time, never time conscious. A simple activity takes all the time in the world. I was shocked to see them take almost an hour taking uji at tea break, leisurely taking the sips in the midst of loud chats and occasionally bursting in laughter.

Then there is the issue of quality. The materials the use is at times a mockery of someone's intelligence. Take sand and ballast for instance. I believe that it is common knowledge that the quality of sand is determined by its grains. What they are using is poor quality cheap sand which is as fine as wheat flour.

 The graded ballast is even worse. It is full of stone dust and a mixer of poor quality brown stones which easily absorb water, thereby compromising the quality of concrete done.

The murram I saw was pure red soil with a few rock particles to qualify it to be called murram. 

Then there is the thin layer of Tarmac that they have used to make the road, especially the footpaths and the upcoming bus stops. It is barely 2cm thick. 

The result of this is a poorly done road that will surely not stand the test of time. The ground is barely level and with the little rain that fell this morning, you could see water stagnating on the finished sections of the road/paths.

It is for this reason that I can authoritatively say that I would prefer a Chinese Contractor to our own. At least then I am guaranteed of value for my hard earned money that I pay as tax.

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