More than 3,000 dams have no safety permits

A resident in Tiaty, Baringo County points to an emptied dam on May 22, 2018. File PHOTO | NMG  

More than 3,000 dams spread across Kenya have not been inspected for safety, Parliament heard yesterday.

Water and Sanitation principal secretary Joseph Irungu told MPs that only 843 out of the 4,140 dams and pans are regulated by the Water Resources Authority (WRA), the successor of the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA).

“Only 843 are regulated by WARMA but water pans are spread across the country and are not regulated,” Mr Irungu said, adding that the ministry, through the sector institutions is currently updating its inventory of all dams and pans to guide their classification in terms of location, size, usage and ownership.

Mr Irungu told the National Assembly’s committee on environment that the Solai dam, which burst its banks and killed 47 people in Nakuru, had not been inspected.

He said WRA only inspected a weir in 2014 that the Patel Farm owners converted into a dam without regulatory approvals.

WRA chief executive officer Mohamed Shuriye told Parliament that the Authority inspected the killer Patel dam in 2014 and that the facility was due for a further review in December 2018.

“We usually inspect dams every five years, but we review them when an operator applies to make modifications,” Mr Shuriye said.

Mr Shuriye did not, however, explain why the agency did not implement recommendations by its officer who inspected the Patel dam.

“This officer suspected transformation of a weir into a dam in 2014 and thus recommended continuous monitoring and licensing by WARMA. We would like to know why you didn’t implement the recommendation,” MPs asked.

Mr Irungu could also not explain why the ministry has not inspected all the dams in the country.

“We can confirm here that we do not have the exact number of dams. This means that Kenyans are in grave danger. WARMA are supposed to have this information at its finger tips, but it appears you have been approving and licensing construction of dams without caring to know the number that exists,” Njoro MP Charity Chepkwony said.

Mr Irungu said in reviewing the status of dams, Water secretary Simon Chelugui had appointed a national task force to inquire, investigate, asses operations, safety and general status of dams in Kenya.

The task force is expected to submit a report by August 6, 2018 following its appointment on June 6.

The task force comprises officers from Water ministry, Ministry of Interior, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, Water Services Regulatory Board, WRA, county governments of Nairobi, Nakuru, and Muranga, University of Nairobi, KenGen, Association of Consulting Engineers of Kenya, community representatives, Meteorological Department, Kenya Forest Service, Rift Valley Water Services Board and Athi Water Services Board.

“When the task force report is ready, we will report its findings on the management of dams,” the PS said.

Mr Irungu refused to disclose steps that have been taken to deal with the negligence that occasioned the Solai dam tragedy insisting the matter is in court and three of his officers have been charged.