‘SE­CRET’ PROJECT RUNS INTO TUR­BU­LENT WA­TERS

Mu­rang’a res­i­dents say their rivers will be sucked dry by the project, and they will lack wa­ter for do­mes­tic, agri­cul­tural use

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read / Northern Water Collector Tunnel - BY STAR TEAM @TheS­tarKenya

In a bid to fight peren­nial wa­ter short­ages in and around Nairobi, the gov­ern­ment in 2012 came up with a Sh6.8 bil­lion project to chan­nel wa­ter from Mu­rang’a county to the Ndakaini Dam. Wa­ter would be ex­tracted from rivers in­clud­ing Maragua, Irati and Gikigie to in­ject 142,000 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter into the dam daily, boost­ing wa­ter sup­ply to res­i­dents of Ki­ambu, Mu­rang’a and Nairobi coun­ties.

The court stopped the ‘North­ern Wa­ter Col­lec­tor Tun­nel Project’ in Septem­ber last year after an en­gi­neer claimed its con­struc­tion would hurt res­i­dents and rivers. But Cord leader Raila Odinga on Mon­day ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of be­ing “se­cre­tive” about the project, and said it would “turn coun­ties into deserts”.

County lead­ers are di­vided over the World Bank-funded ini­tia­tive, which was launched on Septem­ber 18, 2012. Se­na­tor Kembi Gitura says res­i­dents were not con­sulted. For­mer min­is­ter John Michuki had also ve­he­mently op­posed the project, say­ing: “You will only con­struct these mole holes over my dead body.”

How­ever, Gov­er­nor Mwangi Wairia told off Raila, say­ing he is seek­ing po­lit­i­cal mileage in Cen­tral Kenya by crit­i­cis­ing the project. “The Cord leader was a Prime Min­is­ter when the project was ini­ti­ated, and he sat in Cab­i­net meet­ings that ap­proved it. So if in­deed it has hitches, he should ac­cept that he failed Kenyans,” he said.

Wa­ter CS Eugene Wa­malwa also de­fended the project. He said the World Bank car­ried out an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment be­fore ap­prov­ing its com­mence­ment. The CS said the grow­ing population in Nairobi called for more sup­ply of clean wa­ter fit for hu­man con­sump­tion.

‘SE­CRE­TIVE’ PROJECT

Raila on Mon­day said the project does not ap­pear any­where in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s list of achieve­ments. “It will be col­lect­ing wa­ter from the rivers at their source in the Aber­dares and di­vert­ing the wa­ter to Thika’s Ndakaini dam for use in Nairobi,” he said. “Seven rivers are tar­geted. All of them feed River Tana, the source of liveli­hood for com­mu­ni­ties all the way from Ukam­bani, through Mu­rang’a, Garissa, Tana River and other parts of the Coast.”

Green Belt Move­ment com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion of­fi­cer Lil­ian Muchungi said she was shocked to learn that the project could be go­ing on. “Engi­neers brought up is­sues with the project and it was stopped by the court. We have not heard from them,” she said.

Muchungi said engi­neers feared the project would cause at least four rivers to dry up. “You can­not politi­cise en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. It’s un­for­tu­nate that some Mu­rang’a lead­ers sup­ported the project. They do not look beyond five years,” she said, adding that

THE COUNTY SUP­PLIES 75 PER CENT OF THE WA­TER CON­SUMED IN NAIROBI, YET MU­RANG’A RES­I­DENTS “HAVE NOTH­ING TO SHOW FOR IT” — SE­NA­TOR KEMBI GITURA

con­ser­va­tion­ists are bit­ter about the project. The law man­dates coun­ties to pro­vide wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion services to res­i­dents. Gitura said shar­ing of nat­u­ral re­sources in coun­ties is a crit­i­cal is­sue. He said it would shape county re­la­tions as the na­tion pro­gresses with devolution.

“What is emerg­ing is that we have chal­lenges, which we can turn into op­por­tu­ni­ties,” the se­na­tor said. Gitura said the county al­ready sup­plies 75 per cent of the wa­ter con­sumed in Nairobi, yet Mu­rang’a res­i­dents “have noth­ing to show for it”. He ac­cused the Athi Wa­ter Services Board of not in­volv­ing res­i­dents in the project.

RES­I­DENTS’ FEARS

Res­i­dents had ex­pressed fears that the wa­ter tun­nel, the big­gest in the coun­try, would cause earth­quakes and de­plete un­der­ground wa­ter in Mu­rang’a. They said the 12km long, three-me­tre wide un­der­ground tun­nel, which will be placed 200m un­der­ground, may trig­ger land­slides. The res­i­dents said their rivers will be sucked dry by the mega project, and they will be left with nowhere to turn to for wa­ter for do­mes­tic and agri­cul­tural use.

“Ev­ery time Raila crit­i­cises Ju­bilee projects, Cen­tral Kenya peo­ple take it as a fight against the gov­ern­ment,” said res­i­dent Mathew Maina from Ka­harati. “On this one, we beg to dis­agree be­cause he’s talk­ing the right thing. Once the slopes of Aberderes are sucked dry, we will have no wa­ter left. Right now, Mu­rang’a boasts of Ndakaini dam, and yet the gov­ern­ment has failed to sup­ply us with clean wa­ter and pumps all of it to Nairobi.

Maina said Mu­rang’a res­i­dents must be in­volved in de­lib­er­at­ing on the progress and ben­e­fits of the project, say­ing res­i­dents must first be served with enough wa­ter be­fore it can be pumped to Nairobi.

Lucy Kanyiri from Kenol ac­cused county lead­ers of fail­ing to lobby the gov­ern­ment to give the re­gion a stake in the project. “They will now be heard talk­ing be­cause Raila has spo­ken about it. We live here with them and they un­der­stand well the suf­fer­ing we have been through with wa­ter, yet they have kept quiet,” she said.

How­ever, res­i­dent Os­car Mburu said Raila is try­ing to di­vert the coun­try’s at­ten­tion from the “wa­ver­ing state of af­fairs” in Cord. “We are used to Raila’s way of pol­i­tics, crit­i­cis­ing ev­ery project be­ing car­ried out by the gov­ern­ment,” he said. “We are aware that wa­ter is be­ing tapped from Mu­rang’a and pumped to Nairobi, and we are sat­is­fied be­cause we have our peo­ple there who will ben­e­fit. And the gov­ern­ment has promised to tap clean wa­ter from the project and dis­trib­ute it to the en­tire project. We re­spect the for­mer PM but urge him to leave this project alone.”

Wairia said any con­cerns raised by res­i­dents will be ad­dressed by the Ju­bilee gov­ern­ment. “We the peo­ple of Mu­ranga are in Ju­bilee and have an able leader in Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta who can deal with our prob­lems if and when we have them,” he said.

“When Uhuru wants to end peren­nial prob­lems, Raila is try­ing to politi­cise them. We as the peo­ple of Mu­ranga would only want to know the ben­e­fits of the wa­ter to Nairobi for the peo­ple of Mu­rang’a, which we are work­ing on.”

/ FILE

1. The rich wa­ter catch­ment at the Aber­dares For­est, which sup­plies wa­ter to most parts of Nairobi and Nakuru. 2. Gov­er­nor Mwangi Wairia dur­ing a press brief­ing in his of­fice on Tues­day. 3. The Ndakaini Dam that feeds Nairobi county with wa­ter.

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