Ksh. 150 b dam project aimed at eradicating hunger in Tharaka, Mwingi and Tana River
Construction of the second largest dam in Africa is due to start at a cost of US $ 1.5 billion in Tharaka Nithi and Mwingi Counties through funding by African Development Bank, Government of Italy, JICA, Arab Development bank and the Government of Kenya.
According to sources close to the steering management, the project funding proposal is approved and the ways of addressing environment and social economics effects of the project are being carried out.
The multi billion project has thrown various government ministries into disagreements where most of them are seeking to exercise direct control of the funds and others want to be partners into the project.
These ministries include that of Agriculture, Arid Lands development, Water, Vision 2030 development and special programmes.
The dam which will be the second largest apart from the Aswan High Dam in Egypt will encompass several components such as water for irrigation, Domestic use, forestry aspect and hydro power generation with main water source being River Tana and others which flow in these two counties.
On completion the irrigation schemes will be carried out in three counties which are Tharaka Nithi, Mwingi and Tana River whereas hydro power generation centers will be in Mwingi while forestry will be done in Tharaka region.
It is estimated that the hydro power generation from the Grand falls high dam will be triple that of the seven folks system.
Much of the dam will be situated in Tharaka where several people will be relocated from their residence and be compensated for disturbance.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 people will be moved in Tharaka Nithi County since the project will consume 100 percent of Kamanyaki location, 98% of Kamarandi location, 25% of Gituma and Ciakariga locations, 30% of Maragua and 20% of lower Marimanti Location.
According to Prof. Kithure Kindiki a lead lawyer from the region who has been at the helm of steering the project, the people from the areas that will be affected are being pushed to be in the Rapid Results Initiative of the Ministry of Lands so that they can be wholly compensated once the project starts.
"We want them to have titles before the project commences because compensation will be hastened. People may be paid money but we suggest they be absorbed within the community because there will be a sizeable urban migration", said Kindiki.
He further allays fear that due to cultural issues such as burial sites and the fact that most of the residents of Tharaka are peasant farmers there might be causes of conflicts.
"Some people who will be compensated might misuse the funds and start causing other social economic problems that might not feature in the current feasibility research that is going on. We need civic education to be done to them and they be shown a way in which they can form an organization so that they can carry on with their lives smoothly", adds Kindiki.
Kindiki further expounds that the ecology of the region will be affected since the terrestrial lives such as lizards, snakes and other animals found in the region will be disrupted.
Kindiki further proposes that if there could be a way in which the project can be done in phases along the Tana, would be better to avoid displacing a greater population in one area or if possible reducing the acreage.
By Martin Murithi