The fate of Sh63 billion hydro projects in Elgeyo Marakwet County hangs in the balance, with investors expressing fears over their safety after they were physically attacked by irate residents recently while on tour.
An international firm hired to carry out environmental and social impact assessment in the area has suspended operations, citing insecurity.
The Golden Associates, contracted by financing institutions to carry out an assessment of the Arror and Kimwarer hydro projects, halted work after they were pounced upon by angry protesters near Kapsowar Town as they headed to the site.
The team has since demanded improved security following the attack at Kamara Bridge, despite assurances from local leaders who have supported the project.
“We have no option but to suspend the assessment process after our vehicles were pelted with stones by youth opposed to the project,” said Mr Roberto Mezzalama, the team leader.
The team was forced to cut short its trip to the Sh35 billion proposed Arror Dam and return to Eldoret. They had also planned to visit a similar Sh28 billion hydro-project in Keiyo South before tabling their report to the financing institutions.
“The violence is not only a threat to us but to other teams who will be involved in implementation of the project and the safety of other Kenyans,” said Dr David de Waal, a member of the delegation.
The Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), through a joint venture between CMC di Ravena and Itenera of Italy and with funding from the Italian government, plans to implement the multi-purpose project to generate 60 megawatts of electricity and enhance irrigated agriculture.
“There is a need for residents opposed to the project to use the right channels to resolve disputes instead of resorting to acts of violence and lawlessness,” said Mr David Kimosop, the Kerio Valley Development Authority managing director.
The ambitious project is projected to serve more than 50,000 people living in the highland and lower land parts of the vast county.
Both projects are meant to generate electricity and boost irrigated agriculture.
The issue of title deeds is also likely to delay the project after Kimwarer residents demanded to be issued with the documents before roll-out of the project.
But according to Mr Kimosop, the National Land Commission (NLC) has taken over the compensation for displaced families following the tour of the region by commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri.
The NLC is to pay Sh80 billion to families that will be displaced to pave the way for the two dams.
Mr Kimosop has asked local leaders to stop politicising the project, which he said will address perennial water shortages in the region.
“All the grievances raised by the families that will be affected by construction of the dam are going to be addressed. I do not see the reason why they should resist the project,” he said.
Mr Kimosop said the authority, in collaboration with the regional and national government, was addressing all the thorny issues raised by the community.
“More than 10,000 acres of land will be placed under irrigation and provide water for domestic use to over 100,000 households,” said Mr Kimosop, adding that 50 kilometres of road will be constructed and 185 square kilometres of land will be under water catchment conservation.
According to Mr Kimosop, families to be displaced by the project were willing to swap land as part of compensation.
“Most of the families have proposed swapping of land as part of the compensation. Measures have been put in place to settle them elsewhere under a mutual agreement in the next six months,” he said.
He added that more than 800 families would be displaced. The project will cover 4,000 acres.