WHY MEGA DAM PROJECTS FACE STIFF RE­SIS­TANCE

Res­i­dents say the Sh23 bil­lion Itare dam in Bomet, the Sh30 bil­lion Ar­ror dam in El­geyo Marak­wet and Mu­rang’a’s Sh6.8 bil­lion North­ern Wa­ter Col­lec­tor Tun­nel hurt the en­vi­ron­ment and sup­ply far­away town folk at their ex­pense

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read / Water Supply - BY STEPHEN RUTTO @sk_rutto

In ur­ban ar­eas, the ques­tion of where the clean fresh wa­ter we use in our homes orig­i­nates from rarely crosses our minds, even as we open that tap to quench thirst, take a bath or do the laun­dry.

Most of the wa­ter used in ma­jor towns, in­clud­ing Nairobi, comes from dams. The re­cent es­tab­lish­ment of the Sh23 bil­lion Itare dam (Bomet), the Sh30 bil­lion Ar­ror (El­geyo Marak­wet) and Mu­ranga’s Sh6.8 bil­lion North­ern Wa­ter Col­lec­tor Tun­nel are elic­it­ing mixed re­ac­tions.

In El­geyo, where three mul­ti­pur­pose dams are set to be con­structed at Sh80 bil­lion at Ar­ror, Kimwarer and Em­bobut, res­i­dents are up in arms, ac­cus­ing the state of ig­nor­ing their plight for ad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion be­fore the mega projects be­gin.

The county al­ready has a 6.2m cu­bic me­tre Che­bara dam that sup­plies wa­ter to El­doret town and its en­vi­rons. How­ever, res­i­dents near the dam be­moan lack of piped wa­ter, de­spite con­sis­tently help­ing to con­serve the dam and the rivers sup­ply­ing it.

The scenic dam, built in the mid90s, draws its wa­ter from Moiben River, as well as streams that orig­i­nate from Kip­kunur and Em­bobut forests, which form part of the larger Cheran­gany wa­ter tower.

The des­per­a­tion for clean wa­ter is ev­i­dent, with res­i­dents fetch­ing wa­ter from streams that drain wa­ter to the dam, re­gard­less of health risks.

An­gry res­i­dents mo­men­tar­ily dis­rupted a re­cent an­nual con­ser­va­tion run at Che­bara dam, El­geyo Marak­wet, to protest against lack of piped wa­ter in their homes.

Res­i­dent Amos Kimu­tai said dur­ing the Sat­ur­day event that El­doret Wa­ter Ser­vices has been ig­nor­ing their pleas for tapped wa­ter. El­dowas is the com­pany that has been man­ag­ing the dam and fa­cil­i­tat­ing con­tin­u­ous sup­ply of wa­ter to El­doret from Che­bara for piped wa­ter for the past 18 years.

Kimu­tai said it only fo­cuses on sup­ply­ing wa­ter to El­doret res­i­dents. He said the con­ser­va­tion run has been done for three years, yet res­i­dents have not been told how the pro­ceeds ben­e­fit them.

“We have tried talk­ing to El­dowas, but no one lis­tens to us. We help con­serve the dam, yet peo­ple in other coun­ties ben­e­fit from the wa­ter,” Kimu­tai said.

‘RES­I­DENTS HAVE BEEN TAK­ING PART IN TREE PLANT­ING AND OTHER CON­SER­VA­TION PRO­GRAMMES, BUT THEIR CRY FOR PIPED WA­TER HAS BEEN IG­NORED.’ — PAUL CHELIMO, AC­TIVIST

It took Gov­er­nor Alex Tol­gos’ in­ter­ven­tion to calm down the res­i­dents. Tol­gos said he em­pathised with them, since his par­ents live less than a kilo­me­tre from the dam but have no tapped wa­ter.

Ben­jamin Kimu­tai, 51, a farmer who also lives in the dam’s vicin­ity, said the stream wa­ters get muddy dur­ing rainy sea­sons, ex­pos­ing res­i­dents to wa­ter­borne dis­eases.

He said to­gether with their live­stock, res­i­dents rely on the streams, fur­ther in­creas­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­ity to wa­ter­borne dis­eases.

“We fetch wa­ter from the streams. Our live­stock drink from the same streams as well,” Kimu­tai said.

He said the lo­cal com­mu­nity has been re­quest­ing El­dowas for help but their pleas have been ig­nored.

“The dam has brought more mis­for­tunes that for­tunes. When it started sup­ply­ing wa­ter to El­doret, we suf­fered from dis­eases in re­turn,” he said.

Kimu­tai said a sud­den change of cli­mate oc­curred when the dam was com­pleted, as tem­per­a­tures de­creased, mak­ing the area colder.

He said the sit­u­a­tion has been worse for res­i­dents who fetch wa­ter di­rectly from the dam, as some of them have drowned and died.

“At least six peo­ple have drowned while fetch­ing wa­ter from the dam since its es­tab­lish­ment. It has never been fenced off,” Kimu­tai said.

“We have been shortchanged for a long time. We re­gret why this dam is lo­cated here yet peo­ple liv­ing in an­other county en­joy its ben­e­fits.”

Paul Chelimo, a res­i­dent and chair­man of Moiben Wa­ter Re­source Users As­so­ci­a­tion, said res­i­dents liv­ing ad­ja­cent to the dam have not ben­e­fited. He cited res­i­dents of Che­bara trad­ing cen­tre, Cho­goo, Kap­ko­ros, Che­biemit, Kil­ima and Kap­sil­iot.

Chelimo said El­dowas and other or­gan­i­sa­tions have been work­ing to pro­tect the dam’s wa­ter sources, plac­ing sup­ply of wa­ter to res­i­dents near the dam on the back burner.

He said it has been an up­hill task con­vinc­ing El­dowas to sup­ply piped wa­ter to res­i­dents in the hilly area, where get­ting piped wa­ter to homes is dif­fi­cult.

Chelimo said Moiben WRUA has pre­sented a pro­posal to El­dowas to con­struct wa­ter tanks on the higher grounds of Cho­goo and Kil­ima be­fore be­ing sup­plied to res­i­dents’ homes through grav­ity, since the area is hilly.

He said res­i­dents have be­come im­pa­tient, as they have been given as­sur­ances of be­ing sup­plied with piped wa­ter for drink­ing and ir­ri­gat­ing their farms for close to two decades, but no prom­ise has been ful­filled.

“Res­i­dents have been tak­ing part in tree plant­ing and other en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion pro­grammes, but their cry for piped wa­ter since the dam was es­tab­lished has fallen on deaf ears,” Chelimo said.

He said lack of piped wa­ter in most homes will pose prob­lems as the pop­u­la­tion in­creases and with it, the de­mand for clean wa­ter, due to the ris­ing num­ber of public in­sti­tu­tions.

He cited the re­cent es­tab­lish­ment of Kisii Univer­sity cam­pus and the ex­pan­sion of Che­biemit Sub­county Hos­pi­tal. Other in­sti­tu­tions in­clude Che­bara Boys and Girls sec­ondary schools and Che­bara Youth Polytech­nic.

“Res­i­dents are pin­ning their hopes on the lat­est agree­ment, signed in mid 2015. It is our hope that they will fi­nally get tap wa­ter in their homes,” Chelimo said.

He said Moiben WRUA has part­nered with the Kenya For­est Ser­vice to plant 100,000 tree seedlings in Kip­kunur For­est, an ef­fort he said has made El­dowas pay at­ten­tion to their de­mands for wa­ter sup­ply.

“It has now agreed to sup­ply wa­ter to Che­bara and Che­biemit res­i­dents,” he said.

Busi­nessper­sons in Che­bara trad­ing cen­tre, in­clud­ing shop­keeper Gla­dys Kipchumba, said the piped wa­ter deal with El­dowas is just the lat­est in a string of prom­ises that have never been ful­filled.

Kipchumba asked why a trad­ing cen­tre a kilo­me­tre from a dam serv­ing El­doret town has no wa­ter. “We only get wa­ter from the stream. We have no other sources,” she said.

El­dowas man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Reuben Tuwei said the com­pany has in­vested in con­serv­ing the dam’s wa­ter sources.

Tuwei said the com­pany has part­nered with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to re­store the source of Moiben River, which is the ma­jor source of the dam. He cited the Wa­ter Re­sources Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity and Na­ture Kenya.

“We launched Che­bara con­ser­va­tion run in Oc­to­ber last year to con­serve the wa­ter sources around the dam and to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of res­i­dents,” he said.

The MD said the dam sup­plies 22,000 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter per day to 500,000 house­holds and at least 100 in­dus­tries in El­doret, adding that con­serv­ing the dam is a pri­or­ity to the com­pany.

Records from the now de­funct Marak­wet county coun­cil in­di­cate the Sh1.2 bil­lion dam was launched by re­tired Pres­i­dent Daniel arap Moi in 1999.

It gets its wa­ter from Moiben River, whose source is deep in Em­bobut For­est in Kapyego, and which me­an­ders through Kip­kunur For­est through Che­bara to Uasin Gishu county.

At the Marak­wet West Sub­county Hos­pi­tal in Che­biemit, doc­tors said cases of wa­ter­borne dis­eases in ar­eas around the dam have been on the rise.

Sub­county health of­fi­cer Isaac Kipyego said poor san­i­ta­tion-re­lated dis­eases are fre­quent, de­spite pre­ven­tive mea­sures taken by the min­istry to stem the ill­nesses.

The of­fi­cer said sev­eral in­ter­ven­tions have been rolled out to save res­i­dents from wa­ter­borne dis­eases. He said the Health depart­ment is work­ing with NGOs to run be­hav­iour change com­mu­ni­ca­tion (BCC) pro­grammes to re­duce cases of san­i­ta­tion-re­lated ill­nesses, in­clud­ing ty­phoid and amoe­bi­a­sis.

The pro­gramme aims to cre­ate aware­ness on the use of toi­lets rather than defe­cat­ing in bushes, near rivers around the dam and other ar­eas in the sub­county, putting res­i­dents’ health at risk.

“Most peo­ple have been defe­cat­ing in bushes, lead­ing to the spread of dis­eases. We have wit­nessed be­hav­iour change that has led to re­duc­tion of wa­ter­borne dis­eases,” Kipyego said.

Wa­ter from the dam flows to El­doret town, 80km away, through grav­ity.

In the South Rift re­gion, Bomet Gov­er­nor Isaac Rutto and his Keri­cho coun­ter­part Paul Chep­kwony have called for a halt to the con­struc­tion of Itare Dam, which is meant to sup­ply wa­ter to Nakuru town. They have cited neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects if the project in Ndoinet For­est pro­ceeds.

The Kip­sigis Coun­cil of El­ders are also op­pos­ing the project for sim­i­lar rea­sons.

In the Cen­tral re­gion, con­tro­versy has rocked North­ern Wa­ter Col­lec­tor Tun­nel, which aims to sup­ply wa­ter to Nairobi. Crit­ics, in­clud­ing Cord leader Raila Odinga, claim it will turn Mu­rang’a, Garissa, Ukam­bani and Tana River delta re­gions into deserts within five years of com­ple­tion.

Other crit­ics, in­clud­ing Mu­rang’a Sen­a­tor Kembi Gi­tura, say the public was not con­sulted.

How­ever, Wa­ter CS Eu­gene Wa­malwa said an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment was done and it showed the project will not harm the en­vi­ron­ment. Mu­rang’a Gov­er­nor Mwangi Wairia ac­cused Raila of politi­cis­ing the project.

IN CEN­TRAL, CON­TRO­VERSY HAS ROCKED NORTH­ERN WA­TER COL­LEC­TOR TUN­NEL, WHICH AIMS TO SUP­PLY WA­TER TO NAIROBI. CORD LEADER RAILA ODINGA CLAIMS IT WILL TURN MU­RANG’A, GARISSA, UKAM­BANI AND TANA RIVER DELTA RE­GIONS INTO DESERTS WITHIN FIVE YEARS. ‘WE HAVE BEEN SHORTCHANGED FOR A LONG TIME. WE RE­GRET WHY THIS DAM IS LO­CATED HERE YET PEO­PLE LIV­ING IN AN­OTHER COUNTY EN­JOY ITS BEN­E­FITS.’ — FARMER BEN­JAMIN KIMU­TAI

/ALICE WAITHERA

A con­struc­tion worker in­side the North­ern Col­lec­tor Tun­nel..... The North­ern Col­lec­tor Tun­nel that is be­ing con­structed at Makom­boki area in Kigumo, Mu­rang’a county.

/BEN NDONGA

Nakuru Gov­er­nor Kin­uthia Mbugua in­spects the Itare dam con­struc­tion in Ndoinet Kure­soi yes­ter­day along with con­trac­tors and other county govern­ment of­fi­cials .

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