Scores of construction workers and subcontractors in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, could face lean times in the coming months after a state-owned agency suspended building construction begun between last June and this January.
The National Construction Authority said it declared the moratorium on new residential and commercial buildings to do structural safety audits after two buildings collapsed in early January, killing at least eight people.
The agency, which regulates construction in the East Africa nation, said that, despite the job losses at building sites, the moritorium will allow developers to comply with regulations to ensure “stable structures for the safety of both the workers and the tenants.”
It was not clear how long the moratorium will last.
Daniel Manduku, authority executive director and CEO, blames a lack of adherence to statutory requirements, poor workmanship and “gross disregard for human life” for the collapses of more than 30 homes and other structures under construction in Nairobi in the past five years.
“Due to the growing number of people in cities, which has created a huge demand for housing in Nairobi, some property developers often bypass building regulations to cut costs and maximize profits,” he says.
Nairobi needs 80,000 units of housing per year to meet its annual housing demands.
Although it could not be immediately confirmed how many workers have been affected by the ban on new construction, the Kenya Building Construction, Timber Furniture and Allied Industrial Employees Union says they include supervisors and construction-crew leaders as well as those employed by developers and subcontractors.
The authority has issued new safety regulations that include mandatory approval of construction projects by county governments and the national environment management authority; registration of the project’s architect, engineer and contractor and a site board that displays that information; and safety signs.
The suspension of new building follows the killing of a Chinese worker employed by China Road and Bridge Corp., a contractor for the $186-million, 30-kilometer Southern Bypass in Nairobi.
A police spokesman said the worker, whose name could not be immediately confirmed, was killed when a gang of seven raided the Chinese construction site on Jan. 9 and demanded cash and mobile phones from the construction workers.
"In the process, they beat up the workers who resisted, and the [Chinese] victim was one of those injured. He succumbed to injuries in the hospital," said the spokesman.
In December, at least 38 quarry workers were killed in the northern Kenya town of Mandera by the Al Shabaab militant group, which is linked to Al Qaeda. The group claimed responsibility, saying it was avenging the involvement of Kenyan troops in the Somalia peacekeeping mission.