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Another ‘clean’ power plan runs into headwinds

Saturday May 23 2015

Residents of Laisamis constituency and Karare outside Meru law courts last November after the hearing of a case involving the Sh75bn Lake Turkana wind power project. Another controversy has arisen over the planned construction of high-voltage power lines from the project through Nyandarua County. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI |

Residents of Laisamis constituency and Karare outside Meru law courts last November after the hearing of a case involving the Sh75bn Lake Turkana wind power project. Another controversy has arisen over the planned construction of high-voltage power lines from the project through Nyandarua County. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

MACHARIA MWANGI
By MACHARIA MWANGI
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Another government-initiated clean power project that passes through Nyandarua County appears to have hit communal headwinds.

Months after locals engaged security forces in bloody confrontations over the proposed Sh13 billion wind power project, construction of a multi-billion-shilling high voltage line from the Lake Turkana Wind Power project (LTWP) is facing similar challenges.

The wind farm project could add 300 MW of clean power to Kenya’s national grid in line with the government’s development agenda.

The high voltage transmission line from Loyangalani to Suswa — which is being constructed across six counties by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) — has run into trouble after some of the people affected in Nyandarua rejected the compensation deal offered by the firm.

The issue now requires deft negotiators as the more than 1,500 affected families cry foul, citing possible health hazards, among other concerns.

Local leaders are also airing their misgivings about the project, with Nyandarua Senator Muriuki Karue saying several issues like a fresh land valuation should be thrashed out before the project takes off.

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“All the affected land is undervalued. The money offered by the government agency is way below the current market value,” he said.

There are also claims that some affected title deeds were retained by the original owners who have since sold the land but are still listed as beneficiaries in the Ketraco compensation programme. 

Mr Karue said there was optimism about reaching an agreement with the company, adding that pertinent concerns by the affected people must be addressed before construction of the evacuation line can begin.

Kipipiri MP Samuel Gichigi agrees, adding that the company should have a written undertaking with the farmers to duly compensate them “in case of any unforeseen health hazards”.

“It is the first evacuation line of this nature (400 kV) under construction, and we are yet to fully understand what the effects might be,” he said.

His Ndaragwa counterpart, Mr Waweru Nderitu, urges the company to address all the grievances raised by the farmers — like land valuation, compensation and the ascertaining of bona fide land owners.

“Talks are key to forestall a potential stalemate,” he said.

FROSTY RELATIONSHIP

The frosty relationship between the company and the affected people became evident after the group went to Githambo in Murang’a for a familiarisation tour of a similar project.

They argued that the 400 kV the evacuation lines passing over their farms would carry was way above  the 132 kV the Murang’a line would carry.

But Ketraco spokesman Raphael Mworia said the difference in voltage was “nothing to worry about.”

“Studies done by experts have allayed all fears expressed by the affected people,” he said.

He also downplayed the issue of compensation, saying payments were based on “world best practices.”

“I believe that, in due course, all the outstanding issues will be resolved amicably,” he said.

The farmers are demanding to be compensated 100 per cent to allow them to move away from the evacuation line, but Mr Mworia said the company was offering 30 per cent due to what he termed “limited loss of land use.”

He said they were not making “outright” purchase of the land but were only compensating farmers for the parcels of land used in the construction of the evacuation line.