The wrangles between Kajiado County government and Tata Chemicals over the control of water resources in Magadi has gone full throttle. The county government is demanding hefty water levies and has threatened to disconnect the soda ash manufacturer should it fail to pay.
What begun in 2018 as a tiff over unpaid land rates amounting to Sh17 billion has now degenerated into a vicious turf war in the semi-arid part of the county.
The tension might deal a blow to the company that requires more than 1.2 million litres of water daily in the plant and entire Magadi town.
Kajiado had demanded Sh17 billion in land rate dues accrued over the years on a 224,991-acre piece of land owned by Tata chemicals under lease agreement. It had initially threatened to repossess the land and sub divide it to locals, triggering a chain of reaction that ended in courts, forcing Governor Joseph Lenku to retreat.
Critics see the silence as a change of tack as Kajiado has redirected its muscles on Loibor Toto, Nkurumani water tower currently controlled by Tata Chemicals Company. The water tower is seen as the under-the-table card to help arm-twist the company to a negotiation table.
Tata has a capacity of over 600,000 tonnes of soda ash annually. The company cannot survive without consistent water supply in their production.
Mr Ole Lenku has since threatened to disconnect water to Magadi if Tata chemicals does not settle monthly water bills slapped on them.
On April 16, the executive committee member in charge of water Michael Semera wrote to Tata chemicals indicating the Kajiado’s intention to metre bulk water supply. The company was required to sign into a monthly bulk water supply agreement.
"In the meantime, you are required to pay a fixed monthly charge of Sh1,000,000 for water abstracted and supplied to your company,” read part of the letter.
On June 17, 2019, Tata Chemicals Harish Nair, executive director, responded in a letter referring the county to a High Court judgment of May 3 that prohibited Kajiado from “trespassing, entering, locking or interfering with company’s premises in Kajiado and Magadi town.”
Tata Chemicals maintains it has been paying for disputed utility to Water Resource Authority (WRMA).