ANOTHER DAM, ANOTHER CRIME: STATEMENT BY RT. HON RAILA ODINGA ON ITARE DAM:
NOVEMBER 4, 2016
On the 16th of October 2016, I spoke to Kenyans about the Northern Collector Tunnel, a then secret Jubilee Government project in the Aberdares Mountains, just above the Murang’a region, whose impact will be one of the most disastrous in the country and on residents of the Continent.
We indicated that the Northern Collector Tunnel was just one of the two such projects whose impacts on communities would be grim and which were being implemented without consultations with the people as required by the Constitution.
The other one, which I wish to speak to you about today, is the Itare Dam Water Supply Project situated right at the heart of South West Mau Forest Water Tower.
This project is taking off at a time the Mau Forest, which we fought hard to restore, has been invaded by top government officials who have allocated themselves land, planted tea and are constructing factories, caring nothing about the future. We will address this new invasion of the Mau by senior government officials later.
The Itare dam project will be diverting rivers Songol, Kipsonoi, Itare Ndoinet, Sise, Itare Kiptiget, Itare Chemosit, Timbilil, Diony Soet, Yurith, Kipchorian, Chemosir and Jamju in Bomet and Kericho counties at the source in the Mau Forest for onward transmission to particular towns in Nakuru County.
These rivers feed rivers Sondu, Gucha/Kuja, Mara, Nyando and Migori.
The project is intended to supply water to Nakuru and its satellite towns – Molo, Elburgon, Salgaa and Njoro.
A 57 meter high barrier is to be built to collect water from the rivers just as they leave the Mau and create a dam with a capacity to yield 100,000 cubic metres of water per day.
The dam will be located in Kuresoi Constituency but will have a 4-meter diameter tunnel that will fun for 14.5 Km underground, traversing Kuresoi, Molo and Nakuru towns. It will particularly traverse Chepsir, Chepseon and Kedowa townships. The project will cost a total of 33 Billion Shillings.
The government is proceeding with this project, despite various issues having been raised about it both by the local communities and the experts.
The Kipsigis Council of Elders, the Sondu Basin Water Resources Users Association, and the South Rift NGO Consortium have all petitioned the President against the Itare Dam project.
The first issue is that there was no public participation conducted among the people whose environment will be affected by the project. Public participation was only carried out among the people of Nakuru County.
No public participation was carried out among the people of the eight counties of Narok, Bomet, Kericho, Kisii, Nyamira, Kisumu and Migori and Homa Bay counties that are going to be affected by this project.
In fact, in the case of Itare dam, the government has done the unthinkable.
The documents that have been used to prove that there was any public participation are a forgery. There were no such meetings as the ones alleged in the Environmental Impact Assessment reports and there were no such attendants. Copies of those faked signatures will be provided to you.
This is also another project that has been started before the necessary environmental licenses have been issued. The construction began in June 2015, long before the environmental impact assessment was conducted.
Indeed, the EIA report was completed on 15th December 2015. It is not clear whether a license has been issued by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) or the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA).
A second issue raised but treated casually by the Environmental Impact Assessment is that the project will shift water from Lake Victoria catchment to Lake Nakuru basin. Why so much water is being diverted from different parts of the country to Nakuru County is a subject we will address at a later stage.
No study of the characteristics of the catchment was ever done. There was equally no hydrological assessment report for the rivers where the dam is being constructed. This transfer of water will also adversely affect Sondu-Miriu River.
The alteration of flow in Sondu-Miriu river will affect the Sondu Miriu Hydro-Electric Power station and turn Kenya’s investment into a white elephant. It will also turn Bomet, Migori, Nyamira, Kisumu and Kericho into desert regions.
Tea farming in the South Rift is at risk with this project. The Kenya Tea Development Authority has been relying on the rivers that are being dammed upstream to generate power for the tea factories. That stands at risk.
The eco-system of the Mara River is at risk once rivers like Amala, are interfered with. That will have grim impact on the economy of Narok that is built on the Maasai Mara tourism activities but the impacts will extend beyond our borders and into the region.
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment observed that the project could exert “excess pressure on scarce water resources especially in the drier areas such as the Rift Valley sections with inland drainage, habitat alteration and fragmentation of forested habitat, loss of nesting sites and other wildlife habitat through bush clearing, disruption of water courses and establishment of non-native invasive plant species.
It also identified potential loss of ground water and localised lowering of the water table. The Itare Project is not simply a dam. It will change the face of Lake Vitoria basin for worse, forever. Livelihoods and cultures based on small and large scale farming and forest management are at stake.
Why waters are being diverted from across the country to Nakuru is a subject we intend to deal with at a later stage. But it is not about Nairobi and it is not about Nakuru town and its environs. We are convinced that these waters are being taken to Ruiru and Naivasha to feed personal projects of the top leadership of Jubilee Government at the expense of other Kenyans.
The affected counties; Bomet, Kericho, Narok, Kisii, Migori, Nyamira and Kisumu, deserve explanation. We demand proper public participation on this project in all areas of Bomet, Kericho, Narok, Kisii, Migori, Nyamira and Kisumu.
We need a comprehensive audit is conducted of all environmental concerns raised and a proper environmental impact assessment made based in all the necessary data and in particular the hydrological survey of the underground water systems.
We need a consultative panel of stakeholders must be immediately set up to bring together representatives of all the communities living in the Lake Vitoria Basin.
Finally, we challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta to give Kenyans a direct assurance that he has no conflict of interest in this matter between his commercial interests and the interest of the people of Kenya in these water projects being diverted to Nakuru.
Itare dam is a crime that must not proceed.