Politicians and activists in Murang’a want the Northern Water Collector Tunnel project halted on the basis of a report that shows it is a threat to three major rivers in the region.
The report by an organisation called Save Aberdare Rivers states that the Sh6.8 billion project may drain Maragua, Irati and Gikigi rivers in a few years.
The report by Environmental Expert Jimmy Kagoni indicates that the project has not been implemented as designed.
Kagoni claims the rivers are being diverted and that flood water is not being tapped as agreed.
He warned that the project, which is 80 percent complete, will have adverse effects on the region’s ecosystem if not halted.
“The tunnel will not be taking flood water from the rivers as initially planned. It will be draining them,” he noted in a media address on Saturday.
The environmentalist added that that the tunnel is not completely cemented and that water has been seeping in through the ground.
Kagoni said 18 counties depend on the rivers, that draw water from the Aberdare water towers, so they are at risk of turning into deserts should the project continue.
“Murang’a people were shortchanged to allow the project to continue. It was agreed that those in charge would conduct afforestation of the Aberdare, as a water tower, to empower and preserve it but it hasn’t been done,” he said.
“The Aberdare case is now more severe than that of the Mau Forest since it has been left exposed. In less than 10 years, the place will be dry. What we are doing is creating a Kalahari desert within our country.”
Read: Northern water tunnel to be completed by end of 2018
Kagoni further said that the manner in which the project was approved was criminal and that they were considering seeking the intervention of global agencies such as the International Criminal Court and United Nations Environment Programme.
“As a matter of urgency, we are inviting relevant committees of the Senate and National Assembly to a fact-finding mission to see the designs presented to Murang’a people and the actual work being carried out. They will be shocked by the reality on the ground.”
Samuel Mwangi, the Mathioya sub-county clerk, said former Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, and Murang’a leaders agreed that the government would spend Sh2.6 billion on provision of water in the county as a condition for the construction of the tunnel.
“We were promised that other projects to supply Murang’a people with water would be initiated and run simultaneously with the tunnel project but it was all a lie,” he said.
Mwangi said the tunnel may have contributed to numerous deadly landslides in the county.
Peter Mbugua, a human rights crusader from Mitubiri, said residents got a raw deal. He blamed politicians saying they did not address the concerns that were raised.
“Murang’a people should get a percentage of revenue for the water taken to Nairobi as is the case with oil mining in Turkana,” he said.
The leaders raised concern about the construction of a tunnel similar to the one in question, claiming its water will come from the Aberdare Forest.
“The Southern Collector Tunnel is designed to draw water from the Aberdera and drain it into the northern tunnel. It has been done without public participation and will suck out the only water tower we rely on,” Mwangi said.
In October 2016, opposition leader Raila Odinga wanted the project stopped.
The project funded by the World Bank seeks to divert water from sources in Aberdare to Thika’s Ndakaini Dam for use in Nairobi.
Raila termed is a “secret, ridiculous” Jubilee initiative and “one of the most disastrous initiatives as it will turn Muranga, Garissa, Ukambani and Tana River Delta regions into deserts, within five years of completion”.
Researchers say the state underestimated the county’s current and long-term water needs when planning the project.
They want it stopped or modified as Murang’a county could become dry by 2035 because of massive abstraction by the tunnel.