The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

In the past one week, there has been an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion on the con­struc­tion of the Northern Wa­ter Col­lec­tor Tun­nel project in Mu­rang’a county. A lot of pol­i­tick­ing has fol­lowed, dis­tract­ing the fo­cus from facts in this project. This wa­ter project was con­cep­tu­alised in 2007, when the World Bank agreed to fund it. It, how­ever, didn’t start until March this year, be­cause of tus­sles be­tween the lead­er­ship of Mu­rang’a and the Athi Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Com­pany, which is im­ple­ment­ing the project.

The project is part of Vi­sion 2030 and is sup­posed to help im­prove wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity in the Mu­rang’a, Ki­ambu and Nairobi coun­ties. This will help solve peren­nial wa­ter short­age fac­ing the three coun­ties, for both do­mes­tic and in­dus­trial use.

To­day, the pop­u­la­tion growth, es­pe­cially in Nairobi and Ki­ambu, has re­sulted in an acute and per­sis­tent wa­ter short­age, de­spite it be­ing one of the most im­por­tant com­modi­ties in life. It is in line with this that au­thor­i­ties have been work­ing hard, over the past 10 years, to de­velop sustainable so­lu­tions to help solve the per­sis­tent prob­lem.

There are a lot of facts about this project be­ing lost in the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal talk, es­pe­cially af­ter op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga joined in the fray.

While Raila might have done this for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, it is im­por­tant that those coun­ter­ing his ar­gu­ment don’t politi­cise this is­sue.

There have been claims that the project has been se­cret. The truth is that all the steps have been doc­u­mented, in­clud­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions, which some have claimed never hap­pened. Doc­u­ments by both the gov­ern­ment and the World Bank show a good num­ber of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings were held as re­cently as last year.

It is through these con­sul­ta­tions that the peo­ple of Mu­rang’a de­manded lo­cal wa­ter projects be done as part of the larger project. Some projects ben­e­fit­ting the county are - Mu­rang’a wa­ter sup­ply and the Gatanga wa­ter sup­ply.

These projects were a re­sult of con­sul­ta­tions be­tween Athi Wa­ter, the min­istry of Wa­ter, the World Bank, the county gov­ern­ment of Mu­rang’a, the Mu­rang’a county assem­bly and res­i­dents.

In ad­di­tion to the wa­ter projects, doc­u­ments show there are a num­ber of roads in Mu­rang’a that will ben­e­fit from the project. A num­ber of jobs will also be cre­ated for the lo­cals.The tun­nels, it was ex­plained and doc­u­ments show, will only col­lect wa­ter when rivers go be­yond the nor­mal level as a re­sult of flood­ing. This means the rivers will not be drained.

This also negates the claim that the project is a con­spir­acy to turn some parts of the coun­try into a desert.

As long as ex­perts have said this is im­pos­si­ble, politicians should be care­ful not to in­cite the pub­lic against a project that will even­tu­ally help solve the wa­ter short­age prob­lem.

Why I in­sist on ex­perts is be­cause they can tell us, through re­search, what kind of im­pacts to ex­pect from the project. They can also tell us if the project is still vi­able in deal­ing with the wa­ter short­age that faces the three coun­ties. Those who were tasked by the World Bank to con­duct the En­vi­ron­men­tal and So­cial Im­pact As­sess­ment should come out and ex­plain these is­sues. The World Bank, which came on board al­most 10 years ago, should also come out and ex­plain the ra­tio­nale be­hind the project.

This is the only way we will have a sober con­ver­sa­tion on the project with­out un­nec­es­sary sideshows among politicians. Politicians are not nec­es­sar­ily ex­perts and should, there­fore, not be al­lowed to guide con­ver­sa­tions on such an im­por­tant mat­ter such as the use of nat­u­ral re­sources.


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