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Forest agency backs out of land deal for dams project

Kimwarer dam
Site of the planned Kimwarer multi-purpose dam in Elgeyo Marakwet County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will not surrender 400 hectares of forest land, dealing a major blow to the implementation of the controversy-riddled Sh63 billion multi-purpose dams in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The State agency pulled out of the land exchange programme for the Arror and Kimwarer dams multipurpose project after it was hit by corruption claims that are now under investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

“The matter failed to go through after the project was hit by allegation of corruption,” said Benjamin Kanyili KFS North Rift Head of Conservancy.

KFS was to surrender 400 hectares of forest land in exchange for 570 hectares from private land surrendered by displaced communities.

The Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) which is the government implementing agency was to acquire about 6,000 acres of land including public forest to set up the twin multi-purpose dams.

Private land

According to KVDA Managing Director David Kimosop, 400 hectares of forest land was to be acquired from KFS in exchange for 570 hectares private land from communities displaced by the project.

“The displaced families are expected to receive about Sh6 billion as compensation for properties lost including land,” said Mr Kimosop in an earlier interview.

“Most of the families have proposed swapping of land as part of the compensation and measures have been put in place to settle them elsewhere under mutual agreement,” added Mr Kimosop.

The ambitious project was projected to serve more than 50,000 people upon completion.

Both projects in Kerio Valley region are meant to produce electricity and boost irrigated agriculture. The dams were to displace 900 families, schools and shopping amenities, among other public facilities.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos on Wednesday claimed KFS wrote a letter to stop allocation of the land for the two mega dam projects.

“Already KFS has written a letter that they are not ready to provide land for these projects. I want to tell those (disgruntled) MPs to channel their energies to this instead of responding to the President through the media. They should have brought the issue to the floor of the House,” said the governor.

The KFS has confirmed the report, throwing into jeopardy the implementation of the mega project.

Four local Members of Parliament last week warned that they would hold weekly demonstrations if the projects were suspended because of what they termed “politically motivated” corruption investigations.

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