Ukambani residents want dam to ensure food security


A man points to the site of the proposed Thwake Dam at the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers. PHOTO | Kitavi Mutua | NMG

Residents of Kitui and Makueni counties want the four components of the Sh36.9 billion Thwake multi-purpose dam re-arranged to guarantee food security in the region.

The dam, a Vision 2030 flagship project, is planned for implementation in four main phases including construction of a 77 meter high dam, hydro power generation component, 34600 cubic meters of water supply and a final phase of irrigating 40000 hectares in the two counties.

It is designed to supply piped water for domestic use, to serve the Konza techno city and adjacent towns, irrigate farms downstream as well as generate 23 megawatts of hydro power.

However, local residents want the hydro power generation component, which will see installation of three turbine generator sets, deferred until the water supply and irrigation components are achieved.

According to Dr Daniel Kisangau, the secretary of Thwake land owners committee, Ukambani region desperately needs water for domestic and irrigation purposes and that they should be the first beneficiaries of the project.

“Our stand as a community remains that food and water are more basic than electric power. So after the dam is constructed, let us first irrigate the 40,000 hectares downstream before generating power for national grid” the don told the Nation yesterday.

Dr Kisangau urged State engineers to reschedule the project implementation plan to deliver the irrigation component first.

He cited the seven folks hydro-power dams along River Tana which he says was abandoned before the irrigation phase was done in Ukambani with nothing being revived three decades later.

Fear abandonment

The power generation component is the second phase of the project that is expected to take three years to construct but residents say they fear that the final irrigation phase may be abandoned by government once water and power are delivered.

His sentiments were echoed by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, MPs Boni Mwalika (Kitui rural), Erastus Kivasu (Mbooni) and Daniel Maanzo (Makueni) who witnessed the signing of the contract between the ministry and Chinese firm Gezhouba Group on Wednesday.

Governor Ngilu who mooted the project during her tenure as Water minister said the project should solve the myriad food and water challenge which forced residents in the region to rely on relief food year in year out.

“Finally, the Kambas long held vision of ending the cycle of food shortages is coming to fruition and the water should be used for irrigation to achieve that dream” said Ms Ngilu.

Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said their concerns to re-arrange the project phases will be addressed but urged Kitui and Makueni leaders to help the government deliver the project by preaching harmony and dialogue in solving community concerns.

“It is certainly a giant water project that will transform the two counties and the country and already both the government and donors have made financial commitments so its upon leaders now to mobilise the community to support the project” he said.

Mega dam

The CS said the dam will dwarf the seven folks built along Tana River both in terms of its size and output, making it one of its kind in the East and central Africa.

The government is concluding resettling hundreds of families living at the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers to pave way for the construction of the dam, predicted to create a vast reservoir once completed.

With its 70 metre high wall and a 10 kilometre long back flow along the two rivers, Thwake dam -predicted by water engineers to one of Africa’s largest man-made lake.

It is being financed jointly by the Kenya government and the African Development Bank (AfDB) with the State financing two thirds the cost while donors pay the remaining third.

The dam project works will involve huge volumes of excavation where the two rivers meet, diversion of rivers to create spill ways, water treatment works and pipelines to take the bulk water to various destinations.

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