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Joy as institutions aid the fast growth of once deserted Gatunga area of Tharaka

Joy as institutions aid the fast growth of once deserted Gatunga area of Tharaka
March 23, 2023 Eastern Newspaper

An aerial view of the Tharaka University located in Gatunga, Tharaka Nithi County | PHOTO-Courtesy

By Dennis Mugambi

About 10 years back, the Gatunga area shared between Tharaka North and Tharaka South Sub-counties of Tharaka constituency was just like any other locality in Tharaka where normally the place was busy only during market days, with Gatunga being the largest livestock market in Tharaka.

In the outskirts of the Gatunga and Marimanti, the two markets were surrounded by deserted and uninhabited thick bushes that no one would foretell if the outlook of the place would change someday.
However, today, the once neglected bushy suburbs of Gatunga and Marimanti are flourishing into a busy business and residential hub with mushrooming housing and transport infrastructure, thanks to the establishment of Tharaka University.

Growing from shops, residential houses, eateries, recreation facilities, tarmacked roads, and restaurants like Home Lodge Junction and Fun Beach, Gatunga has now completely attained a new face that has made the locality and Tharaka region fully accessible to the rest of the world, thanks to several institutions around.

For instance, Tharaka University which started as a mere constituent college of Chuka University has led to a hike of cost to the facilities around the university including house rents and land prices, thus locals owning pieces of land here can be compared to people sitting on gold deposits.

To cater to the needs of thousands of students from countrywide who are schooling here, investors have seized the opportunity to establish various investments near the university to save the students from the burden of walking long distances to Gatunga Market about 2 kilometers away.

It is the growth of these businesses here that has led to the birth of an upcoming business Centre which has been given the name `Runda’ by students and locals from all sorts of businesses operated from this point.

The Eastern Newspaper talked to Antony Kubai Thiringi, a businessman who runs a general shop and an alcohol joint at Runda place, and chatted a little about business around the varsity.

Tharaka Technical Training College Administration Block

No roads

According to Thiringi, before the establishment of the university, the place was desolate with no roads or any other facility apart from Gatunga boys’ high school.

He revealed that even parcels of land around the locality were given at throw-away prices since no one considered the place productive in terms of anything apart from farming.

“When I came to this place back in 2007, an acre of land here cost around Sh45,000 while a 50 by 100 plot went at even Sh40,000. But after the campus started the same acre is currently selling at Sh1.4Million and a 50 by 100 plot is being sold at not less than Sh800,000 depending on the location,’’ he said.
In terms of the transport sector, matatus are now for the first time serving the Gatunga-Nairobi route to and from on daily bases to cater to the needs of commuters who need to travel from around Tharaka.
New bodaboda stages are also coming up as a result of increased varsity students who are requiring simple and ready means of transport to access the institution and neighboring social amenities.

The residents are now calling upon the county government of Tharaka Nithi to move with speed and conduct spatial planning in the areas around Gatunga since they fear the structures being put up might be demolished in the future in case the plan rules them out.

Tharaka University was lobbied by President Uhuru Kenyatta by Ameru professionals who are chaired by the now acting Tharaka University V.C Prof. Muriungi, aiming at providing affordable and quality education, especially to the Tharaka community.

About a Kilometre from Tharaka University is Tharaka Technical And Vocational College and Best Kenya College located in the Karungaru area.

As a result of the institutions, hotels like Home lodge Junction, Fun beach resort, Deluxe Lounge, and Cool Pet have been established around to offer services such as entertainment and accommodation to students, visitors, and locals.

The facilities have offered job opportunities to both locals and non-locals which is an indicator that the area is fast growing.

Another notable facility that can be associated with the growth of the institutions around is Tharaka Music school which offers music classes among other services.

However, the growth of the area is being slowed by issues like water shortage around.

Also, the delayed completion of Chiakariga – Gatunga road tarmacking is giving visitors a non-desirable impression, especially those coming from developed Counties.

Dusty Miomponi-Home-lodge junction road connecting Tharaka to Meru County at Kwa Ng’ombe is also another challenge is solved can benefit the hub in a big way.

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