All You Need to Know about Isiolo International Airport
On 18th October, 2016 we paid a courtesy call to the office of the manager at Isiolo International Airport: Mr. Mohammed Lipp. I have to admit that we were warmly received at the facility despite the normal security check-ups at the gate. At least we were not denied entry.
Isiolo International Airport is one of the flagship projects planned by the Vision 2030 blueprint. It straddles between Isiolo and Meru counties. The airport has been built in phases. It is now in the final stages of its 3rd phase. The manager informed us that the airport is likely to be completed by December, 2016. This will be followed by official commissioning by the President in January, 2017.
The airport construction is behind schedule. The Permanent Secretary for Transport had recently mentioned that the airport operations will start by end of November, 2016. International travels will not commence immediately on opening as expected by many Isiolo residents.
The manager confided in us that the airport will handle domestic flights for 2-3 years before it attains the requirements to handle international flights. This is because all airports around the world are classified depending on the facilities that they have.
After the initial 2 or 3 years, a number of audits and certifications will be applied and the pre-requisite infrastructure upgraded.
Isiolo International Airport is currently facing a number of challenges. These are:
- Delays from the side of contractors due to poor planning
- Soil formation that requires the contractors to dig more than 2 meters to find a bedrock before laying the runway.
- Water scarcity: The airport is facing an acute water shortage forcing them to harvest flood water for use at the airport for construction.
- Asymmetry of information between the local community and airport management. For instance, resident who live on the downstream of river Isiolo do not have access to water on full time basis because some people upstream have diverted the river course. This is blamed on the Airport construction. The visit to the airport reveled that that was not accurate. There is no water getting to the airport from Isiolo River according to the airport manager.
There are a number of advantages that the airport has. The first one is the location. The airport is likely to serve at least 5 counties. That is: Isiolo, Meru, Samburu, Garissa, Marsabit. It will particularly play a role in export of beef from Isiolo’s newly constructed abattoir. Remember most of the counties near the airport practice animal rearing.
Secondly, the conservancies located in the region are expected to receive more tourists as a result of the airport. Local and international tourists will easily access the tourist attraction in Isiolo and the neighboring areas.
Miraa exports. I sincerely hope that once Isiolo Airport starts handling international flights, Meru County miraa farmers will benefit a lot.
Job creation. The airport will immensely contribute to job creation. Local companies will bid for cargo handling, airport cleaning and supplies. It is important to remember that airports are a national government function. Therefore, people are employed by Kenya Airports Authority through a highly competitive process. This is to ensure that all Kenyans benefit from the facility.
There are a few misconceptions about the airport. To start with some residents living downstream believe that the airport has diverted the course of river Isiolo. This is not true as mentioned before. Secondly, there are some people believe that the airport is the source of floods in Isiolo town. How can this be true? The airport does not produce water.
Can an airport release water that causes floods? Let me hear from you on this matter.