By Raila Odinga
JUBILEE MUST STOP DIGGING THE TUNNELS OF ANGER AND DEATH:
Ladies and gentlemen of the media;
I wish to address you today on a secret Jubilee Government project in the Aberdare 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.
The project is known as the Northern Collector Tunnel. It has been going on since 2014 in utmost secrecy, heavy security and without acknowledgement even by a regime desperate to be seen to be commissioning projects. It will be collecting water from the rivers at their source in the Aberdares and diverting the water to Thika’s Ndakaini dam for use in Nairobi.
Seven rivers are targeted; all of them feed the famous River Tana, the source of livelihood for communities all the way from Ukambani, through Muranga, Garissa, Tana River and other parts of the Coast.
In the beginning, the project will target rivers Maragua, Irati and Gikigie. It will then be extended to tap water from rivers South Mathioya, Hembe, Githugi and North Mathioya. All these are tributaries of the Tana River.
The secrecy surrounding this project is by design. Even the Jubilee Government knows it is a bad project. It will turn Murang’a, Garissa, Ukambani and Tana River Delta regions into deserts in five years of implementation. This is according to technical and feasibility reports that are also available to the very government implementing the project.
Here is how it is designed to work:
– A 3-meter diameter tunnel will be dug high up in the Aberdare range to connect all the seven rivers to Thika’s Ndakaini dam.
– A shaft will then be dug from the surface to convey water to the tunnel beneath.
– It is estimated that some of these ducts will be up to 250 meters deep.
– The 3 meter diameter tunnel will run for 11.8 kilometers in the first phase.
– The tunnel in phase II is expected to be much longer and the ducts much deeper.
The project is being implemented by the Athi Water Service Board and is financed by the World Bank.
It will cost Kshs. 6.8 Billion.
But the World Bank has classified it as Category A project. This is means it is identified as one with potential for large-scale conversion or degradation of natural habitats and significant resettlement or other major social impacts, among others.
The late Hon John Michuki had raised objection to this project just before he died. He is reported to have spoken to the people of Kanyanyaini Location in Kangema Constituency where he said:-
“You will only construct these mole tunnels over my dead body.”
The Murang’a County Assembly has since raised serious concerns about this project. The Assembly mandated its Water, Energy, Forestry, Environment Natural Resource and Cooperate Management Committee to investigate the project.
The Assembly adopted the Report of the Committee which resolved that the implementation of the whole project should be suspended until all matters of concern are fully addressed.
This conclusion was reached after considering only the effects of the project on Murang’a County. If one considers the project effects on the rest of the Tana River basin, then it is clear that this project is totally outrageous. The concerns over the project are as follows:
• The participation public was so limited that Members of the Murang’a County Assembly have termed the whole project as “secretive”. Public sensitization was only carried out in six towns that lie on the tunnel path, namely, Ichichi, Kanyenyaini, Makomboki, Mairi, Kangari, Kinyona and Gacharage.
• No efforts were made to get the views of most of the Murang’a people particularly in those areas that already have serious water challenges like Makuyu, Ithanga, Kandara, Kambiti, Kakuzi and Kimoroi.
• People living on the rest of the Tana River basin were not contacted at all. The people in Garissa, Ukambani and the Tana River and Tana Delta regions rely on the Tana River as their sole source of water. A project like the Northern Collector Tunnel cannot be legitimately conceptualized, designed and commissioned without taking into consideration the views of the people along the Tana and considering the effect of the project on their lives.
• The project therefore goes against the Constitution of Kenya which states that public participation is one of the National Values and Principles of Leadership that must be complied with.
• It also goes against the provisions of the Environmental Management Co-ordination Act and the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations that requires the conduct of proper public participation before any project is designed and commenced.
Jubilee has ignored the right to public participation of the people in the Tana River basin and continues to date to implement this project as a secret.
Jubilee is so secretive about this project that it does not appear anywhere in the administration’s list of achievements.
The same Jubilee that has made it a common practice to commission projects that had already been commissioned by the Grand Coalition Government so at to look productive has chosen not to “launch” this project.
Another concern is that this project was designed, commissioned and construction commenced before an Environmental Impact Assessment report was prepared and before a license was issued by the National Environment Management Authority.
The information we have shows that the project had been designed by end of the year 2013, the tender for a contractor was published in March 2014 and an agreement signed with the contractor on 1st September 2014. A payment of Kshs. 1,365,127,934.56 was also paid to the contractor in October.
But the terms of reference for the conduct of the Environmental Impact Assessment were not approved till July 2014 and the EIA report was not approved till November 2014. The License by NEMA was not issued until February 2015.
Jubilee conceptualized, commissioned and commenced construction of a project without establishing the impact of the project on the environment. This is unconstitutional, criminal, a blatant abuse of power and a grievous derogation of the rights of the people affected.
The assessment itself turned out to be a scandal. It turned out that when the assessment was being done, there was a shortage of critical important data without which a proper assessment cannot be conducted.
Some of that unavailable data is the hydrological mapping of the underground water system in Murang’a and how that system affects the larger Murang’a area and the rest of the Tana River basin.
The Murang’a County Assembly Environmental Committee is on record complaining about this issue and saying that “it is surprising that geotechnical investigation for a project located almost entirely underground has not been exhausted by the time the contract was awarded”.
It turns out that, in fact, no license has been obtained from the Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA) for this project to be commissioned.
The constructor of this project is therefore digging blindly into the mountain, boring tunnels that will likely have very adverse effect on the underground water system of the Tana River basin.
One of these effects is that it will lead to the drainage of underground streams and aquifers.
The Environmental Impact Assessment report recognized this danger and said:
“Tunneling activities may lead to alterations of underground drainage and fracture flow …. Studies have shown that tunnels can lead to drying up of springs and streams leading to severe socio-economic and ecological effects….”
Environmental experts say that such damage to the underground hydrology is irreversible.
This effect will be compounded by the fact that this project will lead to severe loss of water on the Tana River which will lead to drying up of both ground and underground rivers and streams in Garissa, Ukambani and Tana River Delta.
The effects will be so severe that the larger Murang’a, Garissa, Ukambani and the Tana River Delta region will be deserts within five years of this project.
Other expected results from the damage to the hydrology of these areas is that in Murang’a alone, 77 species of aqua life which include 7 species of fish are expected to be extinguished.
The loss of water is also expected to result the lowering of water flowing into Masinga, Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma and Kiambere dams, thereby also compromising Kenyan’s generation of hydro-electric power.
In Murang’a, four hydro power stations on Maragua River known as Wanji and Mesco projects operated by KENGEN and five private generating stations shall become completely unviable with this project.
Environmental experts are also raising concern about the effect of tunneling the mountain in topography as unstable as Murang’a. Murang’a is listed in our National Disaster Profile as one of the most vulnerable areas in Kenya to landslides.
In fact the feasibility study of this project also found that the Murang’a area records seismic activity.
The consulting engineers have warned that this danger of landslides and seismic activity can have an impact on the structural integrity of the tunnels as well as on Ndakaini dam and this could result in catastrophe.
Once completed, this project will double the amount of water flowing to Nairobi. Yet Nairobi has not been prepared to process this extra water.
Current estimates are that Nairobi’s drainage sewerage system can only cover 20 per cent of the city’s waste. Up to 80 per cent of the city’s waste ends up in Nairobi River. This will soon be 180 per cent.
Also ignored is the effect of this project on the ecosystem of the Aberdares.
The Aberdares is one of the water tunnels that are threatened by deforestation. Water generation capacity of the Aberdare has been going down. This project needed to make provisions for the protection of the Aberdare forests before thinking of taking even more water from it.
I therefore wish to state the following:-
1. President Uhuru Kenyatta needs to address the people living in the Tana River Basin and tell them why his government is proceeding with the implementation of this project in such secrecy.
2. President Uhuru Kenyatta must put an immediate stop to this project until:-
a) Proper public participation is conducted in all areas of Murang’a, in Garissa, Ukambani and the Tana River Delta region.
b) Comprehensive audit is conducted of all environmental concerns raise and a proper environmental impact assessment made based in all the necessary data and in particular the hydrological survey of the underground water systems
3. The World Bank needs to address itself to the people of Kenya and tell them why it approved the funding of a project and commenced release of the funds to the contractor before an environmental impact assessment was done, which was contrary to the World Bank Group Environment, Health and Safety Guidelines.
4. The Governor of Murang’a must immediately withdraw the consent of the Murang’a County Government from the Joint Technical Consensus document entered into five months ago with Athi Water Services Board.
This consensus is:-
a) A fraud on the people of Murang’a as it deceives them that the issues affecting their environment have been resolved while the truth is that they have not.
b) The project is extremely selfish since it ignores that fate of the communities downstream and outside Murang’a County which will be equally affected by the project.
5. An consultative panel of stakeholders must be immediately set up to bring together representatives of all the communities living in the Tana River basin, together with Governmental agencies relevant to the issues arising and local and international Non- Governmental Organizations dealing with environmental issues.
6. President Uhuru must also 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 and that he is not silent about this project because of that conflict of interests.
In the interests of the all the communities along the Tana Basin, President Kenyatta must stop digging the tunnels. These are tunnels of death to our people and our country.